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Feds Accuse Epoch Times CFO of $67 Million Laundering Scheme

Stolen money allegedly boosted conservative media company’s revenue

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The Epoch Times, a once obscure Chinese-American newspaper that rose to prominence as a promoter of Donald Trump and conservative causes, is distancing itself from a top executive arrested for allegedly laundering at least $67 million.

Screenshot of The Epoch Times website

On June 3, CFO Weidong “Bill” Guan pleaded not guilty in a New York federal court in response to charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering and bank fraud.

Prosecutors accused Guan of working with members of The Epoch Times’ “Make Money Online” team in a “sprawling transnational scheme” to “knowingly purchase tens of millions of dollars in crime proceeds.” They say Guan used cryptocurrency to purchase the funds, much of which came from fraudulently obtained unemployment benefits loaded onto prepaid cards. Guan then allegedly used stolen personal information to open accounts, after which the money moved through additional accounts connected with Guan and the company.

“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,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams.

The scheme is believed to have begun in 2020, after which The Epoch Times’ revenue skyrocketed by more than 400%, from about $15 million to over $70 million, before seeing a second spike the following year, according to Associated Press.

University of Alabama professor A.J. Bauer, who studies conservative media, said the company’s “rapid and massive financial growth” had seemed out of proportion with its circulation and influence.

“Something always felt off to me about it,” Bauer said, “and it seems like government investigators felt that too.”

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The Epoch Times, which was referred to in the federal indictment only as a “multinational media company,” released a statement agreeing to cooperate with federal investigators.

“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,” the statement reads. “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.”

Founded in 2000 in the basement of Chinese American graduate student John Tang, The Epoch Times began as a counter to Chinese Communist Party propaganda and a voice for the Falun Gong religion, which was banned in China and now operates out of Deerpark, New York. The rise of the newspaper and its parent company, Epoch Media Group, on the global stage as an advocate for politically conservative causes has drawn the ire of left-wing news sources, which accuse it of disseminating conspiracy theories and misinformation.

A spokesman for the Manhattan federal court reported that as of Monday night, Guan remained in custody on $3 million bail, including a $250,000 cash deposit.

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Tony Mator

Tony Mator is a Pittsburgh journalist, copywriter, blogger and musician who has done work for World magazine, The Imaginative Conservative and the Hendersonville Times-News, among others. Follow his work and observations at twitter.com/wise_watcher.