Students for Trump co-founder and pugnacious MAGA Twitter star Ryan Fournier allegedly helped his friend create a fake law firm to bilk innocent clients, only to turn against his one-time partner to help federal law enforcement, according to records and statements made Tuesday by a lawyer involved in the case.
The new revelations about Fournier’s alleged involvement in the fake law firm came after a Tuesday sentencing hearing where a federal judge sentenced Fournier’s Students for Trump co-founder, 25-year-old John Lambert, to 13 months in jail for operating a fake law practice.
Court records have long suggested that Fournier was the unnamed “Co-Conspirator 1” named in Lambert’s 2019 indictment. On Tuesday, Lambert’s defense attorney said that Fournier was the co-conspirator in an interview with the New York Daily News.
Lambert’s attorney confirmed Fournier’s involvement in an email to The Daily Beast.
Fournier didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Fournier will not face prosecution himself, according to a document filed by federal prosecutors. In a federal court filing, the man now identified as Fournier is described as “providing information to the government since in or about April 2018 in the hope of not being charged for his role in the wire-fraud conspiracy.”
In August 2016, Lambert and Fournier created a fake legal consulting company. Fournier allegedly used the alias “Gregory Shapiro” to create a bogus persona for his fictitious attorney character working with Lambert to solicit legal clients online.
The pair allegedly went to great lengths to trick people into thinking they were high-powered lawyers, including spoofing a phone number with a Manhattan area code, when they were based in North Carolina. Both Lambert and his co-conspirator claimed to have law degrees under their aliases that they did not in fact have, according to court filings.
The elaborate scheme worked, at least for a while. Lambert received more than $46,000 from unwitting clients, according to the Daily News report. Lambert’s attorney has claimed that Fournier received half of the criminal proceeds, though that hasn’t been verified by prosecutors. Fournier left the fake law firm at an unspecified point before the con came to an end, according to prosecutors.
Lambert’s supporters and defense attorney have blasted Fournier as a sinister influence on Lambert, who attended North Carolina’s Campbell University with Fournier. Lambert’s grandmother described Fournier as someone who “lead [Lambert] astray,” while a family friend said Lambert had fallen in with a “bad crowd.”
Lambert’s defense jabbed at Fournier in a filing, claiming that he put on airs as someone who “grew up in New Jersey but often claimed to be from Manhattan.”
Fournier is tied to Lambert’s fake law firm in other ways, too. The website registration for Lambert’s first illicit legal consulting company, for example, lists Fournier as the registrant.
In a defense memo, Lambert’s attorney said his client was inspired to illegally practice law by the USA Network show Suits, which features a character who poses as a lawyer.
“Shows such as Suits led John Tyler to believe he could ‘practice’ at being a lawyer by performing tasks that he believed would be beneficial to his customers without significant risk, just as the character ‘Mike Ross’ in ‘Suits’ practiced law without a law degree or license and kept that secret without penalty,” Lambert’s lawyer wrote.
Several of Lambert’s victims complained to the judge ahead of his sentencing, with one man who hired Lambert’s fake law firm to fix his credit saying Lambert convinced him to take money from his 401(k) retirement fund to pay off the fake lawyer. When the pandemic came, the victim — now tricked out of at least some of his retirement money — fell on hard times.
“This man is the worst of the worst in my opinion, he took someone who he already knew was a victim and targeted them to further victimize them and I don’t know what gets worse than that,” the victim wrote in a letter.
While Fournier’s star on the right has been somewhat diminished since the first days of Students for Trump, he has a prominent platform in Trumpworld, including more than 950,000 Twitter followers.
Fournier has kept up a trash-talking attitude in the Biden administration, even to some of his critics on the right. Earlier this week, Fournier made waves on right-wing social media circles with a bellicose Instagram Live in which Fournier addressed his opponents within the GOP.
“If you don’t support me and you’ve supported Trump since Day 1, go fuck yourself, I really do not give a shit about you, because you are a peasant motherfucker,” Fournier said, raising a middle finger to the camera. “Because guess what? Fuck you.”