John Lambert, one of the founders of Students for Trump, is now going to prison after being convicted of fraud in a scheme in which he pretended to be a lawyer and bilked unsuspecting victims out of tens of thousands of dollars. And in a heartwarming twist, it appears that his Students for Trump co-founder Ryan Fournier, who reportedly was his partner in crime, cooperated with federal authorities in helping to nab Lambert. Truly an incredible tale of two assholes!
Lambert and Fournier co-founded Students for Trump in 2016 while undergraduate students in North Carolina. They also decided around the same time to become budding scam artists. Lambert posed online as “Eric Pope,” supposedly an attorney for the fake law firm Pope & Dunn with not only a law degree from NYU, but extensive experience. Pope, Lambert wrote according to Politico, was “sought after for his experience with financial and corporate matters due to his ability to mitigate legal scenarios while keeping the growth of his clients’ business a focal point.” Fournier, as the Daily Beast reported, pretended to be an attorney he named “Gregory Shapiro.”
Lambert then began landing actual clients, including one who used their retirement savings to hire “Eric Pope” to help them out with an issue they were having with a credit reporting agency. Here’s how that victim described his interactions with “Eric Pope” in a written statement, via the New York Daily News:
“[Lambert] told me that I was insane for ever questioning him and that I should be ashamed of myself for questioning his integrity. He berated me on the phone and told me that I was irrational for ever questioning such an esteemed attorney from New York and started demanding that I send him a huge amount of money or that he would not do anymore work for me. In truth he had never done one bit of work for me,” the victim wrote.
As Judge Valerie Caproni noted before sentencing Lambert to 13 months in prison, “Mr. Lambert took his money and did nothing. Mr. Lambert did not even have the common decency to make up an excuse and tell the victim to hire another attorney.”
While Lambert ended up hiring a real attorney to defend him, perhaps a fake attorney would have been better, based on accounts of some of the laughable excuses employed in his defense. According to Lambert’s attorney Gary Peters, he was... inspired by the USA Network legal drama Suits??? “Shows such as Suits led John Lambert 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,” Peters wrote the judge, according to the Daily Beast. Keep Suits and the USA Network out of your mouth—and as a noted watcher of Suits, I’m pretty sure Mike Ross never cheated people out of their retirement savings!
As for Fournier, snitching on Lambert saved his own ass, though it appears their once-close friendship is now sadly over. Via the Daily Beast:
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.”
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.”
None of Lambert’s arguments—neither his rationale that an admittedly absurd USA Network show was a suitable template for his own life, nor his attempts to paint Fournier as the ringleader in their scheme—worked on the judge. As Judge Caproni put it, “You cannot foist this off on being led astray by your co-defendant,” describing Lambert as “a cold-blooded fraudster who cared not a whit about the victims of his fraud.”