Issues & Insights

TikTok Tix Tricks Are Fraud – For Which Watergate Perps Went To Jail

So bunches of young folks are bragging that they used TikTok to scoop up blocks of tickets to Donald Trump’s big rally and depress attendance.

Including the daughter of onetime John McCain campaign strategist, if one can grant such a loser that much credit, Steve Schmidt.

Well, isn’t that hilarious? Here’s something more engrossing yet: There’s one word for what these perps claim to have pulled off – fraud.

Under case law in Oklahoma, “the elements of a common-law action for fraud are: 1) a material misrepresentation, 2) knowingly or recklessly made, 3) with intent that it be relied upon, and 4) the party relying on the false statement suffers damages.”

Hmmm. Let’s put on our legal hats for a second. “Material misrepresentation:” “I want to attend your rally.” Check.

Knowingly or recklessly made:” There’s no way I’d be caught dead there. I just want to troll Orange Man.” Check.

“With intent that it be relied upon.” “I want the campaign to think millions of people want to come so we can embarrass them.” Check.

“The party relying on the false statement suffers damages.” Discouraging people who actually wanted to come but didn’t, thereby dulling the impact of the event. Economic harm from reserving a large arena that is partly full. Humiliation in being trolled by teenagers. According to some commentators, a “boost” for his opponent. Check, check, check, and check.

Those are the elements of a civil action. Criminal actions can certainly be pursued as well. And in case you think that merely creating the false impression that one is attending an event one has no intention of attending doesn’t count, the statutory language in the Sooner State includes as possible acts of “actual fraud” “A promise made without any intention of performing it; or, Any other act fitted to deceive.”

If it walks like fraud and quacks like fraud – and causes damage to those depending on it – it’s fraud, baby.

But wait – there’s more! Since the instrumentality used for the fraud was the Internet, specifically social media, there’s an argument that federal laws against “wire fraud” could be brought to bear, as the fraudulent activity involved attempting to obtain something of some value: a place at a Trump rally.

And by the way, a nationwide coordinated effort to commit fraud? That’s known as “conspiracy.” A separate offense.

Now, if you might be further wondering whether mere penny ante political “dirty tricks” can be grounds for prosecution, allow this commentator to introduce you to one Donald H. Segretti, a political operative for Richard Nixon’s 1972 Committee to Re-Elect the President, also known as CREEP.

Segretti was, in fact, a bit of a creep back then. He and his team of miscreants pulled off dirty tricks that included sending out fake letters on Democratic candidates’ letterhead – which included charges of out-of-wedlock paternity, homosexuality, consorting with prostitutes – to supporters of their opponents. Middle-of-the-night phone calls claiming to be from campaigns. Invitations to non-existent campaign events. And the pièce de résistance, the famous forged “Canuck” letter to the editor that may have sunk the candidacy of front-runner Edmund Muskie.

The character portraying Segretti in the film version of “All the President’s Men” has him telling Carl Bernstein that his wrongdoings amounted to “Nickel-and-dime stuff. Stuff. Stuff with a little wit attached to it.”

“Nickel-and-dime” and “witty” as the “stuff” might have been, it was enough to send the real operative to prison for four months on guilty pleas to three misdemeanor counts of distributing forged campaign literature – and get him disbarred.

Now, let’s suppose that a legally responsible young adult living far from Oklahoma, with full intent to mislead and sabotage the expensive Trump event, reserved – let’s be conservative – 100 tickets. Perhaps even a teen with the knowledge and active assistance (also known as “aiding and abetting”) of a parent alleged to be a “political strategist.”

In fact, each act of reserving tickets could be conceivably be charged as a separate count of federal wire fraud. Each count of which is punishable by fines and up to 20 years behind bars. In Oklahoma, an act of fraud involving value of less than $500 can land you a $1,000 fine and up to a year in the hooch.

How might the Trump campaign put a stop to this nasty little form of tricksterism? Well, it would get ugly if it prevailed upon the FBI or Oklahoma law enforcement to pursue the wrongdoers, who would be easy enough to find given their open boasting online. Especially if youngsters are involved. But a surrogate might suggest it.

And certainly the Trumpsters would be justified, after all their cost, trouble, and embarrassment, to pick out a few entirely unsympathetic young adults, or parents who aided and abetted the wrongful acts, for lawsuits, including economic and — ouch! — even punitive damages. Just making punks go to the trouble and expense of lawyering up might be worth it in terms of letting Gen Z know that tugging on Superman’s cape is not necessarily cost-free.

Merely some free, decidedly non-legal advice (this commentator resigned his bar membership some time ago). And though probably worth nothing more than the electrons it is communicated by, certainly an amusing notion.

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Bob Maistros

Bob Maistros, a messaging and communications strategist and crisis specialist, is of counsel with Strategic Action Public Affairs, and was chief writer for the Reagan-Bush ’84 campaign, three U.S. Senators, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at


  • Never gonna happen. If the doj won’t prosecute people tearing down U.S. owned statues on federal land, you think a mostly Democrat Don will do this?

  • Excellent idea. Gen X,Y or Z need to learn their actions have consequences and that the freest and best nation on the planet requires at least a modicom of honesty for the system to work. Imagine the hystrionics if the Trump ‘deplorables’ had perpetrated this disgusting little scam on Creepy Joe’s campaign!

  • It’s a feel good article, but nothing will come of it. IN the end, it is going to come down to bloodshed.

  • Bring charges! Watch mom and dad try to get their babies out of this, but don’t let that happen! Break the law, pay the price. Like most criminals it’s the only way they learn, if they’re going to! Fines, Jail, Felony record – sounds about right!

  • This in no way meets the legal standard for fraud. In any state. The campaign did not lose anything material. They themselves acknowledge that their registration portal was designed as a data mining operation. They did not have the resources or infrastructure to accommodate the 1 million people they claimed registered to attend. Falsely registering for an open invitation with no limit to the number of people who can register did not rob anyone of their own ability to register and attend. Even if they were charging for tickets and the number was limited, a person is under no obligation to attend an event they paid for. A person can acquire a ticket to any event and be under no obligation to have any intention to attend that event. Should one have the resources to, one could acquire every ticket and leave the event empty and nothing material was lost as money would have been paid which is the only obligation in this scenario.

    This even was first come, first served. Anyone who wanted to attend was free to do so. Nothing was lost by the campaign here.

    • Civil or criminal charges? Does the author know anything about how our laws work. Nobody was defrauded – “Rational Person” above makes that case clear. I’d love to see the campaign bring a lawsuit – summary judgement or dismissal right away and legal cost reimbursement paid to the 100s of thousands of defendants assuming they aren’t all in South Korea.

  • Seems like a simple fix… Just don’t take ticket reservations via TikTok. Another idea: Charge $1.00 for each ticket. Supporters won’t mind paying the nominal fee, but fraudsters will be outraged that their scam will actually cost them money.

  • Honestly, given this whole thing was launched and coordinated through TikTok, it was probably a Chinese Government shadow op, and if traced, could lead to charges of foreign interference for the ring leaders, and, perhaps, a little embarrassment for all the dupes who got themselves led around by the nose by their own little Russia Collusion folks.

    For the three people who weren’t aware of it yet, Apple caught TikTok a couple of days ago red-handed stealing users’ data that it wasn’t supposed to have access to.

    Don’t think China wouldn’t do it either; dumping children’s toys made of bombs is just about the oldest dirty trick of modern warfare. This? This just picks and chooses what you see.

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