NEW YORK (AP) — A co-founder of “Students for Trump” during the 2016 presidential campaign was sentenced to 13 months in prison Tuesday for posing as a lawyer to cheat people he found on the internet out of thousands of dollars.
U.S. District Judge Valerie E. Caproni in Manhattan rejected defense efforts to portray John Tyler Lambert as a naive victim of a co-conspirator whose “youthful exuberance” made him think he could create a fake persona to learn the law and help others. Lambert pleaded guilty to wire fraud in August 2019.
“This crime took a lot of thought,” she said. The judge ordered forfeiture of over $46,000 and restitution of more than $21,000 as she expressed disappointment that Lambert so far had not tried to get a job to begin repaying victims.
Caproni said Lambert’s work to promote former President Donald Trump on college campuses was “a wonderful thing” because it kept young people engaged in government, but she said the leadership skills he used to do good in that role were used to do harm when he created a fake Manhattan law firm to lure victims online.
Lambert, 25, of Bristol, Tennessee, was a “cold-blooded fraudster who cared not a whit about the victims of his fraud,” the judge said.
Prosecutors said Lambert from August 2016 through April 2018 advertised himself on the internet as a prominent New York attorney and graduate of an elite law school who had worked with hundreds of clients, including “tech moguls” and “entrepreneurs,” in Europe and the United States.
Lambert, using the alias “Eric Pope,” lured at least six individuals and corporations into paying him to resolve credit issues, draft a will, resolve a dispute with a former employee and help with corporate and intellectual property law, prosecutors said.
“This man is the worst of the worst in my opinion,” a victim whose named was redacted wrote in a pre-sentence letter to the judge.
The victim, who drained a 401K account to pay Lambert, was berated by Lambert during a phone call and was told “I was irrational for ever questioning such an esteemed attorney from New York,” according to the letter.
“In truth he had never done one bit of work for me as I clearly became aware,” the victim wrote.
Before he was sentenced, Lambert told the judge he had “sincere regret” and wanted to apologize to victims.
“My life will be forever marked by this poor choice,” Lambert said. He added that he was spending “countless hours in prayer to rid myself of the demons.”
Gary Peters, Lambert’s lawyer, said after the sentencing that he was disappointed that his client, currently enrolled in college, was going to prison.
He said Lambert is described as a co-founder of “Students for Trump” even though the group already had several chapters when he began promoting it with television appearances, sometimes on major cable news programs, while he was a student at a conservative school in North Carolina, Campbell University.
After Trump’s 2017 inauguration, Lambert became disappointed with some of the new president’s early moves and stopped participating with the group.
Peters said Lambert “just dropped out.”