Feds charge far-right media executive with money-laundering scheme

Feds charge far-right media executive with money-laundering scheme

Bill Guan, a top executive of the far-right media company The Epoch Times, was arrested Sunday for his alleged involvement in a money-laundering scheme, federal prosecutors announced Monday.

Weidong Guan, known as Bill Guan, who serves as the chief financial officer for The Epoch Times, is accused of participating in a transnational scheme to launder about $67 million in illicit funds for the benefit of himself and the media company, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

Guan, 61, was arrested Sunday morning and appeared before a judge Monday. He is charged with one count of conspiring to commit money laundering and two counts of bank fraud, per the indictment.

The indictment does not specify the name of the referenced media company, only describing it as a “multinational media company headquartered in New York City.” Federal prosecutors noted the charges are not related to the company’s “newsgathering activities.”

A spokesperson for The Epoch Times confirmed Guan is suspended from his post until the matter is resolved, noting he is “innocent until proven guilty.”

The Hill reached out to the U.S. attorney’s office in lower Manhattan for further comment.

Guan, from about 2020 through May 2024, allegedly managed the company’s “Make Money Online Team,” or MMO Team, located in a foreign office of the company, prosecutors said. The team is accused of using cryptocurrency under Guan’s direction to purchase tens of millions of dollars in money acquired through crimes, including fraudulently obtained unemployment benefits.

Upon purchasing these crime proceeds, members of the MMO Team used stolen personal identification information to open accounts, cryptocurrency accounts and bank accounts to transfer the cash into the bank accounts of the media company and “related entities,” the indictment stated. Once in those accounts, the cash was allegedly laundered again through other accounts held by the entities, Guan’s personal bank and cryptocurrency.

The Epoch Times was founded in 2000 by John Tang, who has ties to Falun Gong, a religious group that was persecuted in China. The newsletter was started in opposition of the Chinese Communist Party and is now known for its far-right conspiracy theories and support of former President Trump.

The paper is part of the global Epoch Media Group, which distributes news in 36 regions and countries.

Around the time the alleged scheme began, the “media company” reported an increased annual revenue over the previous year of about 410 percent, jumping from $15 million to about $62 million in 2020, prosecutors said.

“When banks asked Guan about the increase in transactions entering the bank accounts of the Media Entities, Guan lied, including to two U.S.-based banks, and claimed that the increase in funds came from donations,” prosecutors wrote. “However, in 2022, Guan wrote a letter addressed to a congressional office falsely stating ‘donations’ constitute ‘an insignificant portion of the overall revenue’ of the Media Company.”

NBC News reported similar findings last year that the paper grew its revenue by 685 percent in two years, to $122 million in 2021, citing the group’s tax records. The Epoch Times, as of last year, was also the country’s fourth-largest newspaper by subscriber count, NBC News added.

The spokesperson for The Epoch Times told The Hill the outlet has “a guiding principle that elevates integrity in its dealings above everything else,” and said the company intends to fully cooperate with any investigation into Guan.

Guan was released Monday on a $3,000,000 personal recognizance bond, per court records.

The bank fraud counts each carry a maximum sentence of 30 years in jail, while the conspiracy count holds a 20-year maximum sentence.

This story was updated at 7:46 p.m.

Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.