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Jonathan Lee Riches, a former federal prisoner who has filed thousands of frivolous lawsuits, revealed in a profile how he fooled the media in the runup to the 2018 election.
The HuffPost profiled Riches, telling of his exploits. Just before the Nov. 6 election, Riches, posing as a Jewish Trump supporter, was picked out of a rally just after the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Riches duped a New Yorker reporter into believing he was a Jewish Trump supporter named Jonah Rich who claimed to live in Florida and to have been to twenty Trump rallies.
As Riches explained to HuffPost, none of that was true. “The only thing that was real that I told him was maybe close to my name, Jonah Rich, Jonathan Riches, and my age. I’m from Philadelphia,” Riches told HuffPost. The New Yorker removed the article and put up an editor’s note explaining that Riches and a source provided to confirm his identity had misrepresented themselves. The article is still available here.
Riches’ story reaches back years, to his beginnings as a serial litigant. While he was in prison for wire fraud in the early 2000s, Riches filed thousands of frivolous lawsuits, against people like Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West and former President George W. Bush. Riches was such an irritant that he was blocked from filing additional lawsuits in 2010.
Upon his release in 2012, Riches violated his probation by driving to Newtown, Connecticut, and impersonating the uncle of Newtown shooter Adam Lanza. He was rearrested and released in 2015—right as the 2016 presidential campaign was reaching a fever pitch.
In an interview with writer Luke O’Brien, Riches doesn’t seem to put any thought at all into his actions, or their effect on other people—include those grieving the senseless death of loved ones.
As the 2020 election season revs up, disinformation and trolling will likely increase, Riches predicts.
“I don’t know what the future’s gonna be like. I just think that 2019 is going to be a bloody political [mess], right before the election again. It’s gonna be tense, man. And it depends on what Trump trolls around and tries to excite everybody with. I just know whatever is going on, I’m gonna be trolling. Whatever breaking news, you can expect me to troll it,” he told HuffPost.
Read the full report here.
Ellen Ioanes is the FOIA reporter at the Daily Dot, where she covers U.S. politics. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School, and her work has appeared in the Guardian, the Center for Public Integrity, HuffPost India, and more.