Federal prison authorities have relocated a convicted fraudster who the NBC6 Investigators linked to a PayPal account used in a message that appeared to solicit financial support for a fellow inmate – Peter Navarro, a former top-ranking adviser to former President Donald Trump.  

An attorney for Benjamin Forrest McConley told NBC6 his client had “been hanging out with Navarro” while housed in the same unit of the Federal Correctional Institution-Miami minimum security camp near Homestead.

But last weekend, McConley was placed in a special housing unit at the adjacent, more secure facility, his attorney confirmed. The move was two weeks after a Pennsylvania woman alerted the prison and NBC6 that — after sending a letter of support to Navarro — she was solicited to contribute to PayPal or Cash App accounts.

A prison source tells NBC6 that McConley is facing an investigation.

There’s no indication Navarro played any role in the solicitation and, unlike McConley, his status as a minimum-security inmate at the camp has not changed. NBC6 shared the information with Navarro’s attorney, who declined to comment.

Navarro, a Harvard-educated economist who as a top Trump administration adviser rubbed elbows with a president and captains of industry, met McConley after surrendering in March to the minimum-security camp that is part of FCI-Miami.

Navarro is serving a four-month sentence for contempt of Congress, having refused to appear before and produce evidence to the select committee that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. 

The events unfolded last month after Sue (who does not want her last name disclosed) sent Navarro that supportive letter from Pennsylvania on May 13.

“I decided to craft a letter of support for Mr. Navarro,” she told NBC6, “to lift his spirits and to let him know that four months was not a forever-type thing and to try to glean something positive out of an otherwise negative experience.”

Three days later, “I received a text message from someone who had obviously read that letter,” she recalled.

“Greetings from Dr. Navarro. Thank you for your continued support. We need all the support we can get. We must get the message out to the thousands of voters for MAGA!” it read, before making a pitch for money.

“Should you want to contribute to stamps – commissary: you can send any amount by paypal… or cashapp…,” it continued. “All contributed funds go toward stamps for correspondence. God bless you. God bless MAGA. God bless America.”

Suspicious, Sue checked the phone number used to text her and she says it revealed an association with McConley, who she quickly discovered is serving a 13-year sentence for scamming investors who thought they were buying into movies and Broadway shows of $60 million, according to court records and the U.S. Attorney’s office in Miami.

“So, I thought – whoa — so this is not cool,” she said.

When she checked a BOP website and found McConley was, like Navarro, housed at FCI-Miami, she contacted prison officials and NBC6.

The NBC6 Investigators then looked into the PayPal account mentioned in the text and found it used the name Forrest McConley – Forrest being McConley’s middle name and also the first name of his father, who we’ve been unable to reach by phone, email or through McConley’s attorney.

Two weeks after Sue alerted prison authorities of what she found, McConley last weekend was moved into the SHU — a special housing unit — his attorney confirmed, locked up 23 hours a day with limited privileges while the BOP investigates. While in the SHU, McConley’s attorney said he is unable to communicate with him or others, so McConley could not be reached for comment.

For her part, Sue said, “I thought, man, something’s got to stop this because that’s not very good. I don’t want people taken advantage of. People don’t have a lot of money to spend and while I applaud their trying to give support to Mr. Navarro, he doesn’t need our money.”

Navarro has his own fundraising site for a legal defense fund, which shows more than $1.3 million raised.

It’s unclear whether Navarro ever saw Sue’s letter and both current and former BOP employees tell NBC6 security lapses can lead to inmates getting access others’ mail.

Video taken from the FCI-Miami visitor parking lot this spring, obtained by the NBC6 Investigators, shows a camp inmate carrying a bag like those that contain mail, according to those sources. 

In the event Navarro sees this report, Sue said she has a message for him: “Hang in there. Four months will be over in a hurry and there’s a lot of people out here that are supporting you and wish you well.” 

The Bureau of Prisons will not comment on what it’s doing to prevent inmates from soliciting funds into PayPal or other outside accounts by intercepting mail meant for other inmates. If that’s what happened here, it’s a clear violation of prison rules and, federal laws against wire or mail fraud, an attorney familiar with the matter told us.

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