On Saturday, President Donald Trump singled out a supportive Twitter account, retweeting a message it sent praising him. Trump thanked its author, purportedly a woman named Nicole Mincey, who went by the handle @protrump45.
But observers quickly noticed something odd about the account: Mincey didn’t seem to be a real person. And by Sunday night, the account had been suspended.
The @protrump45 account, created in January, branded Mincey as a “black pro-Trump conservative” who began a pro-Trump retail empire after becoming disillusioned by former President Barack Obama.
But Mincey’s profile photo on Twitter appeared to be an edited image of a T-shirt model.
Over the last few days, reporters, including Ben Collins at The Daily Beast and Rick Newman and Jennifer Rogers at Yahoo Finance, tracked down the woman who claims her identity was used to promote the account, which had 146,000 followers.
Nicole Mincy — spelled without the “e” in her last name — is a student at St. Peter’s University in Jersey City. Mincy told Collins, who found her on Facebook, that she was contacted in January by a group called ProTrump45 on Instagram, where she had been promoting pro-Trump content. The group of several people ran a site — ProTrump45.com — that sold Trump merchandise and blogged about the president, and they asked Mincy to become a contributing writer.
“I joined a group of people online who supported Trump,” Mincy told Yahoo Finance. “We came up with this idea to make some money off of this. We bought advertising. We bought articles.”
The @protrump45 Twitter account was supposed to drive traffic to the website and its merchandise.
Mincy said she accepted the invitation to work for the site but, several months later, had a falling out with her fellow bloggers. She claimed to have stopped working for ProTrump45 in early June.
“The store was getting disorganized,” Mincy told Yahoo Finance. “They weren’t keeping up with the orders. I wasn’t getting paid.”
And she wasn’t happy that those who ran the @protrump45 account and website began using her name and school mailing address for business purposes without her permission.
Mincy said that the tweet Trump shared on Saturday was in fact written by others in the group who controlled the @protrump45 account. Several of the Twitter accounts retweeted by @protrump45 appeared to have fake profile images.
Navid Safabakhsh, the CEO of PlaceIt, the logo mockup and stock photo company that produced the images used by the @protrump45 account and others, told The Daily Beast that he and his employees attempted to track down and report all of the accounts using stolen photos.
“Those are who are using PlaceIt models to create bot accounts are committing identity fraud,” the company tweeted. “We will be reporting every single one of them.”
By early Tuesday, all of the accounts that @protrump45 retweeted, which appeared to exist solely to promote the account’s content and conspiracy theories, were suspended.
And PlaceIt said that all of the suspended accounts had been traced back to a single person.
“Just fyi to those interested,” PlaceIt tweeted on Sunday afternoon. “All the accounts we found were related to one person.”
The ProTrump45 website might also be a scam.
Yahoo Finance reporters attempted to order a flag from the site, and while they paid for it through a PayPal account, the flag never arrived as promised. When the reporters contacted UPS about the package that was supposed to arrive, the postal service said the tracking number they were given was fraudulent.
Natasha Bertrand contributed to this report.
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