DOJ charges Epoch Times CFO with $67 million in money laundering

The chief financial officer of the Epoch Times, a right-wing media organization, has been arrested and charged in what federal prosecutors called a “vast, transnational scheme” to launder at least $67 million in illicit funds.

Weidong “Bill” Guan, 61, of Secaucus, NJ, used cryptocurrency to purchase tens of millions of dollars in crime proceeds, including prepaid debit cards, fraudulently obtained unemployment benefits, and stolen personal information used to enrich the Epoch Times annual figures revenue, according to the indictment, handed over last month. The file was unsealed on Monday.

The scheme began in 2020, when the Epoch Times' “Make Money Online” team, led by Guan, purchased “crime proceeds” and transferred them to accounts linked to the media company, the indictment said. Federal prosecutors alleged that the funds increased the company's revenue by 410% in one year, from about $15 million to $62 million.

According to the Justice Department, Guan deposited $16.7 million of the proceeds into his personal accounts, but did not report the income on his tax returns.

A grand jury indicted Guan on one count of money laundering and two counts of bank fraud. Prosecutors said Guan lied to two U.S.-based banks about the source of the cash, saying it came from donations.

According to the complaint, Guan falsely claimed in a 2022 letter to Congress that “donations” constitute “an insignificant portion of the company's total revenues,” saying that “subscriptions constitute the majority” of “total revenues” .

Guan “conspired with others to benefit himself, the media company, and its affiliates by laundering tens of millions of dollars in fraudulently obtained unemployment benefits and other proceeds of crime,” according to U.S. Atty. Damian Williams said in a statement. “When banks inquired about the funds, Guan allegedly repeatedly lied and falsely claimed that the funds came from legitimate donations to the media company.”

The Epoch Times has one statement on its website saying it has temporarily suspended Guan “until this matter is resolved,” adding: “[t]The company intends and will cooperate fully with any investigation into the allegations against Mr. Guan.”

The 12-page indictment does not name the Epoch Times, but refers to a “multinational media company.” However, Guan is listed as the Epoch Times' chief financial officer on the nonprofit's most recent tax filing.

The indictment “does not relate to the media company's news gathering activities,” the Justice Department said in a news release.

The Epoch Times was founded in 2000 by Chinese Americans affiliated with the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which is banned in China. The newspaper, headquartered in New York, started as a small, free giveaway aimed at criticizing the Chinese Communist Party. The media outlet later went national and its billboards, touting the newspaper as “The #1 Trusted News,” can be found all along Southern California's highways.

The media outlet has since become a powerful presence among conservative news organizations, known for spreading conspiracy theories, especially on social media, and as a staunch supporter of former President Trump and his allies.

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