For four years, the top editor of the manic media-news website Mediaite has worked and written under a fake name in order to conceal his criminal past, managing editor Jon Nicosia, whose real name is Zachary Hildreth, revealed on Saturday.
Hildreth’s confession was apparently designed to pre-empt Capital New York reporter Peter Sterne, who began digging into Hildreth’s background two weeks ago. On Saturday Hildreth explained that he went to prison twice for “multiple counts of bank fraud” and “larceny and securities fraud” in 1989 and 2002, and re-invented himself thereafter by clipping viral political videos on YouTube, which landed him a job at Mediaite in 2009.
But he left out the weirdest part.
According to an Associated Press report published in May 1988, Hildreth “often tried to trick employees into believing that New York real estate tycoon Donald Trump called to chat.” And: “Employees said Hildreth would disguise his voice and call himself, pretending to be Trump, then would leave the office door open as he conducted an imaginary conversation.”
His imagined chats with the Donald prefigured the downfall of his computer company, Massdata, and his 5-year prison sentence for defrauding investors and employees. The same report details how Hildreth and his 50-year-old mother tried to commit suicide in a Holiday Inn hotel room after police seized Massdata’s assets and charged Hildreth with larceny.
In his Saturday confession, Hildreth says that Mediaite founder Dan Abrams hired him 4 years ago fully aware of his criminal past, and allowed him to write under a new identity. But it wasn’t until after Sterne inquired about his former life that Abram’s company, or Hildreth, deemed disclosure necessary. At the same time, Trump has supplied the site with plenty of outrage(y) material.
This is particularly notable given that Abrams serves as the chief legal affairs anchor for ABC News—a position he holds, purportedly, for his legal acumen. We’re going to assume Abrams won’t weigh in on his hand-picked editor’s former life any time soon.
Neither Hildreth nor Abrams responded to requests for comment.