Scam PAC operator uncovered by CNN’s KFile pleads guilty in federal court


CNN  — 

A scam PAC operator first uncovered by CNN’s KFile pleaded guilty on Tuesday to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering while operating two political action committees during the 2016 election and collecting more than $3 million from unwitting contributors.

Matthew Tunstall, 35, was one of three men the Justice Department charged with multiple counts of wire fraud, false statements and money laundering in perpetuating the scheme, which tricked unsuspecting donors into giving them money by using robocalls and written solicitations meant to imply they were supporting 2016 presidential candidates.

In reality, the PACs’ operators used the funds to enrich themselves and pay for more robocalls and radio advertisements, according to the Department of Justice and past KFile reporting.

Tunstall pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to cause the PACs to make false statements to the Federal Election Commission, and one count of money laundering. He now faces a maximum of 25 years in prison and his sentence will be determined by a federal district court judge next year, according to a press release from the Justice Department.

The PACs’ activities were first uncovered by KFile in 2016 and 2017, first at BuzzFeed and later at CNN. Robert Reyes, who was also charged along with Tunstall, pleaded guilty in September, and Kyle Davies pleaded guilty in April. They both face sentencing next year

The guilty plea ends the saga of Tunstall’s scam political action committees, which he first began operating in 2016 under the names of Liberty Action Group, ostensibly a group supporting then-candidate Donald Trump, and Progressive Priorities PAC – a group supporting both Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and later opposing Trump’s presidency.

Since the 1940s, political action committees – PACs – have been used to pool donations in support of a candidate or a cause. In recent years, more so-called “scam PACs” have emerged – PACs that are primarily to raise money to enrich the PAC’s own operators rather than engage in political activity they purport to support.

The case is one of a handful of scam PAC cases the Justice Department prosecutes each year, according to experts. Notably, the Justice Department did not charge the perpetrators with campaign finance crimes, but multiple counts of wire fraud, money laundering and false statements.

Tunstall’s continued activities over the years were well documented by CNN’s KFile team, and he was the subject of a CNN KFile investigation in 2021 showing he was living in Los Angeles under the assumed name of “Matte Nox” while operating two different scam PACs.

Tunstall, under the name of Nox, claimed to be an “award-winning writer” and “executive producer,” according to an online bio. In his LinkedIn accounts, he describes himself as an investor in “women-led ventures,” including a modeling agency and a beauty company that sold face masks.

Nox flaunted a lavish lifestyle on his public Instagram and TikTok accounts with crystal-encrusted Gucci rings, Yves Saint Laurent sunglasses and a handmade designer hat with his name engraved.

His public Instagram stories showed him driving a black Porsche Panamera around Los Angeles at night, often to the soundtrack of club music. He lived in a luxury high-rise apartment downtown and posted videos of him partying with aspiring models at nightclubs.

His shirtless selfies displayed a prominent chest tattoo that reads, “God Will Give Me Justice.”

“Your life doesn’t need a purpose, just money,” Nox wrote in one post.

Shortly after his indictment last year, Tunstall continued to run another operation – including promises of a Trump Christmas card for contributions of at least $35 – using a different PAC.

He has also continued to promote himself as a musical artist, releasing an electronic dance music single in July and frequently posting on social media.