Home » Prosecutors In North Macedonia Investigating Online Sales Of Fake Trump Merchandise
Crime Europe Featured Global News News North Macedonia Politics US

Prosecutors In North Macedonia Investigating Online Sales Of Fake Trump Merchandise

BELGRADE — The organized crime and corruption division of the Prosecutor-General’s Office of North Macedonia has opened a preliminary investigation into online sales of fake debit cards and other items bearing the name and likeness of former U.S. President Donald Trump.

The announcement on March 5 came one week after an investigation by RFE/RL traced the digital footprints of a Balkan hub of fraud and disinformation to pro-Trump Americans eager to see the former president win reelection in November and lured by the possibility to profit from it.

The investigation found that the cards and other items were part of a multimillion-dollar scam organized within closed chat groups for marketing that appeared online alongside real and bogus news items designed to appeal to conservative Americans.

The prosecutor’s organized crime and corruption division said its investigation into the scam would be extensive.

“It is a very complex case, which includes a body of actions, and among other things, it is possible that international legal assistance will be involved,” the organized crime and corruption division said, stressing that part of the preliminary investigation is related to an existing case that is already in the trial phase.

The RFE/RL investigation, published on February 26, discovered a group of people selling the fake products to American citizens who were told their purchases would be worth several times more than the funds invested if Trump returns to power.

The operation behind the sales was based in Veles, which has a population of just over 45,000. More than 100 political websites were believed to have been created there before the 2016 U.S. presidential election that Trump won, according to news reports. The websites shared fake news that favored Trump’s policies.

In the more recent scheme, the most common offers were for fake debit cards with Trump’s image, but the investigation by RFE/RL also found coins, tokens, and bills with Trump’s likeness for sale — all completely worthless.

The fake cards sold for several thousand dollars each on hopes that if Trump were reelected their value would surge or they would be made into legal currency. Trump is currently the front-runner in the U.S. Republican party’s race to become its nominee. Many voter surveys also indicate he would defeat U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, in a repeat of the 2020 race that Trump lost.

Neither Trump nor any of his organizations appears to have any connection to the manufacturers of the debit cards and other items, the platforms used for the sales, or sellers.

The digital team from RFE/RL’s Balkan Service conducted its investigation by infiltrating the closed Telegram groups, finding 88 websites at which the products were sold. The network involved 69 individuals, two-thirds of them with digital trails placing them in Veles, the investigators found.

About one-third of the Telegram channels used by the sellers were deleted within days after RFE/RL published its investigation.

Source: RFE/RL