Epoch Times CFO is arrested and accused of role in $67M multinational money laundering scheme

Jun 3, 2024, 7:47 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — The chief financial officer of The Epoch Times, a conservative multinational media company, is accused of taking part in a multi-year scheme to launder tens of millions of dollars in fraudulently obtained unemployment benefits and other funds, according to an indictment unsealed Monday.

Arrested on Sunday, Weidong “Bill” Guan, 61, of Secaucus, New Jersey, appeared Monday before a federal judge in New York on charges of conspiring to commit money laundering and bank fraud. He pleaded not guilty.

Guan is accused of participating in a “sprawling transnational scheme” with others to launder at least $67 million to the New York-based media company’s bank accounts and related entities. Federal prosecutors said members of the company’s “Make Money Online” team, which was managed by Guan, used cryptocurrency to “knowingly purchase tens of millions of dollars in crime proceeds,” including funds from fraudulently obtained unemployment benefits that were loaded onto prepaid debit cards, according to federal prosecutors.

Stolen personal information was then used to open accounts as part of the alleged laundering scheme, prosecutors said. The money was further laundered through other bank accounts held by Epoch and Guan’s personal bank and cryptocurrency accounts.

Assistant Federal Defender Ariel Werner, listed in court records as Guan’s attorney, declined to comment at this time on the charges.

The Epoch Times was not named in the indictment released Monday, but instead was referred to as a “multinational media company.” In a statement, the news organization, which is linked to China’s Falun Gong spiritual movement, said it would cooperate with the federal probe.

“The Epoch Times has a guiding principle that elevates integrity in its dealings above everything else. The company intends to and will fully cooperate with any investigation dealing with the allegations against Mr. Guan,” according to a written statement. “In the interim, although Mr. Guan is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the company has suspended him until this matter is resolved.”

Prosecutors said the charges are not related to the media company’s newsgathering activities.

Federal prosecutors said the media company’s revenues jumped approximately 410% when the alleged money laundering began, from approximately $15 million to $62 million. Guan, they said, lied to banks when they asked about the increase in transactions and said there was an increase in legitimate donations.

The Epoch Times has become politically conservative over the years and has embraced both former President Donald Trump and various conspiracy theories.

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Epoch Times CFO is arrested and accused of role in $67M multinational money laundering scheme