North Carolina

Students for Trump founder pleads guilty to wire fraud scam out of North Carolina

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Eric Pope claimed to be a graduate of a top-tier law school who had 15 years of experience and practiced with the firm Pope & Dunn in New York City.

But there was no Eric Pope.

John Lambert, the founder of Students for Trump who attended Campbell University in North Carolina for a while, created the fake persona to run a legal consulting scheme that gleaned roughly $50,000 from victims, federal prosecutors said.

Lambert, 23, pleaded guilty Tuesday in New York federal court to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a press release.

“John Lambert represented himself to clients as a prominent New York attorney with a law degree from an elite law school,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement. “But Lambert’s de facto career was one of a grifter: he had never been to law school and certainly wasn’t an attorney.”

He now faces up to 20 years in prison and will be sentenced in November, the release states.

Lambert, who is originally from Tennessee, made headlines in 2015 as one of the founders of Students for Trump, a college-based group that supported President Donald Trump’s election. He started the group while still a student at Campbell, where he was last enrolled in 2016 but never graduated, Politico reported.

He’s been anything but idle since leaving the Buies Creek campus.

According to a criminal complaint, Lambert operated the scheme from August 2016 until April 2018, beginning with the creation of a legal consulting company called Headline Consulting.

The alias Eric Pope allegedly followed.

“Lambert’s profile for ‘Eric Pope’ … stated that he was an attorney located in New York City, when in fact he was not and had never been an attorney, and was living in North Carolina,” the complaint states.

Prosecutors said he used the profile to solicit freelance jobs, including web design and legal advice on “a wide range of subjects.”

Lambert even went so far as to create a website for Headline Consulting that featured numerous fake profiles — including a secretary’s —with photos of strangers he found on the internet, the complaint states.

He allegedly obtained a phone number with a New York area code that could be accessed from his cellphone, which prosecutors said was actually assigned the 919 area code typically used in eastern and central North Carolina.

One of Lambert’s victims took money out of his 401(k) account to pay for services regarding issues with a credit report, according to the complaint. Lambert allegedly received $10,000 from the victim before he stopped responding.

Prosecutors said Lambert also received $1,500 to write a will, $1,400 to provide legal advice on intellectual property law and $2,250 to handle a dispute with a fired printing company employee.

Lambert furthered the scheme with false assurances, according to the complaint, telling the founder of a skincare company that “he had worked with hundreds of clients, including tech moguls and entrepreneurs in the United States and Europe.”

He ultimately received $1,120 from that company, the complaint states.

Prosecutors filed charges against Lambert in April. He was arrested and later released on a $20,000 bond, court documents show.

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Hayley is a Real Time reporter at The Charlotte Observer covering breaking news and trending stories in the Carolinas. She also created the Observer’s unofficial bird beat (est. 2015) with a summer full of ornithological-related content, including a story about Barred Owls in love.