Epoch Times CFO charged with participating in $67M money laundering scheme

A top executive for Epoch Times, a conservative multinational media company, has been arrested and charged in a transnational scheme to launder at least $67 million in illicit funds to benefit himself and the company, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Monday.

Federal authorities unsealed an indictment Monday charging Weidong “Bill” Guan, the chief financial officer of The Epoch Times, with one count of conspiring to commit money laundering and two counts of bank fraud. Authorities said Guan, 61, was arrested Sunday morning and pleaded not guilty on Monday in federal court.

In a 12-page indictment, federal prosecutors accused Guan of participating in a yearslong scheme which included using cryptocurrency, fraudulently obtaining unemployment insurance benefits, tens of thousands of prepaid debit cards, and stolen personal identification information to open financial accounts. Prosecutors further alleged that The Epoch Times’ reported annual revenue increased by tens of millions of dollars in or around the same time the scheme began.

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

Federal authorities did not name The Epoch Times in the indictment but Guan is listed as the company’s chief financial officer in its most recent tax return, according to ProPublica’s Nonprofit Explorer. If convicted, Guan faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for the money laundering charge and 30 years for each bank fraud charge.

“The company intends to and will fully cooperate with any investigation dealing with the allegations against Mr. Guan,” The Epoch Times said in a 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.”

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‘Often further laundered through other bank accounts’

Guan served as the chief financial officer for the New York-based company from at least in or about 2020 through May 2024, according to the indictment. He also managed other teams during that time, including the “Make Money Online” team, which used cryptocurrency to “knowingly purchase tens of millions of dollars in crime proceeds,” the indictment alleged.

Members of the “Make Money Online” team and other participants in the scheme bought these proceeds at discounted rates of about 70 to 80 cents per dollar, according to the indictment. The proceeds included fraudulently obtained unemployment insurance benefits that were loaded onto tens of thousands of prepaid debit cards.

The team and other participants also used stolen personal identification information to open accounts, such as prepaid debit card accounts, cryptocurrency accounts, and bank accounts, according to prosecutors. These accounts were then used to transfer the proceeds into bank accounts linked with The Epoch Times.

After the money was transferred to bank accounts, prosecutors said they were “often further laundered through other bank accounts” associated with the media company, Guan’s personal bank accounts, and Guan’s personal cryptocurrency accounts.

When banks questioned Guan about the high number of transactions, he lied and claimed that the funds came from donations, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors alleged that the money laundering scheme caused the media company’s annual revenue to increase about 410% — about $15 million to around $62 million — between 2019 and 2020.

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What is The Epoch Times?

The Epoch Times is a conservative media company headquartered in New York City and is affiliated with the Falun Gong — a new religious movement that has been banned in China. For years, the media company was known for its criticism of the Chinese Communist Party and alleged conspiracies against the party.

In recent years, the company has given platforms for far-right politicians and has supported former President Donald Trump. Citing data from Facebook’s advertising archive, NBC News reported in 2019 that The Epoch Times spent more than $1.5 million on about 11,000 pro-Trump advertisements over six months.

The media company also published dozens of articles spreading Trump’s claims and 2020 election results, according to NBC News. While the company’s strategy got it banned from further advertising on Facebook, it also fueled a large growth in the company’s audience.

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