DOJ charges Epoch Times CFO in $67 million money-laundering scheme

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

Weidong “Bill” Guan, 61, of Secaucus, N.J., used cryptocurrency to purchase tens of millions of dollars in crime proceeds, including prepaid debit cards, fraudulently obtained unemployment insurance benefits and stolen personal information that was used to spike the Epoch Times’ reported annual revenue, according to the indictment, handed down last month. The filing was unsealed 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 associated with the media company, according to the indictment. Federal prosecutors alleged that the funds increased company’s revenue 410% in a single year from about $15 million to $62 million.

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

A grand jury indicted Guan with 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 cash by saying they came from donations.

According to the indictment, Guan falsely claimed in a 2022 letter to congress that “donations” constitute “an insignificant portion of the overall revenue” of the company, saying that, “subscriptions constitute the major portion” of the “overall revenue.”

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

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

The 12-page indictment does not name the Epoch Times, instead referring to a “multinational media company.” However, Guan is named as the Epoch Times’ chief financial officer on the nonprofit organization’s most recent tax filing.

The indictment does “not relate to the media company’s newsgathering activities,” the Justice Department said in its press release.

The Epoch Times was founded in 2000 by Chinese Americans affiliated with the Falun Gong spiritual movement that is banned in China. Headquartered in New York, the newspaper began as a small, free giveaway focused on criticizing the Chinese Communist Party. The media outlet later went national and its billboards, which tout the paper as “The #1 Trusted News,” can be found all along Southern California freeways.

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

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