Epoch Times CFO charged in alleged  million case

The chief financial officer of conservative global news outlet The Epoch Times has been arrested and charged with leading a yearslong scheme to launder at least $67 million in illicit funds, federal prosecutors said Monday.

The scheme — which involved cryptocurrency, tens of thousands of prepaid debit cards, fraudulently obtained unemployment insurance benefits and stolen personal information — fueled a massive increase in The Epoch Times’ reported annual revenue, prosecutors alleged.

Weidong “Bill” Guan, 61, is charged in U.S. District Court in lower Manhattan with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and two counts of bank fraud.

Guan was arrested Sunday morning, and pleaded not guilty on Monday afternoon before a federal magistrate judge in Manhattan, according to a court notice. He was released on a $3 million personal recognizance bond, and his travel is restricted to parts of New York and New Jersey, among other restrictions.

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,” Williams said.

The Epoch Times is not mentioned by name in the indictment. But Guan is listed as Epoch Times’ chief financial officer on the nonprofit media company’s most recent tax return, filed in late 2023.

Prosecutors alleged the money laundering scheme benefited “a multinational media company headquartered in Manhattan, New York.” The Epoch Times is headquartered on West 28th Street in Manhattan.

Prosecutors allege the scheme by Guan and his co-conspirators caused the company’s revenue to jump from “approximately $15 million to approximately $62 million” between 2019 and 2020.

According to The Epoch Times’ publicly available IRS nonprofit tax returns, in 2019 the company reported program revenue of $15.5 million. The following year, The Epoch Times reported tax-exempt revenue of $62.7 million.

The Epoch Times did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Guan, a resident of Secaucus, New Jersey, managed the Epoch Times’ “Make Money Online team,” which carried out the scheme to buy “crime proceeds” and transfer them to bank accounts linked to the media outlet, according to his indictment.

From 2020 to 2024, the team allegedly used a crypto platform to buy tens of millions of dollars in crime proceeds at discounted rates, of 70 to 80 cents on the dollar, in exchange for cryptocurrency. The crime proceeds, which came from sources including “fraudulently obtained unemployment insurance benefits,” were loaded onto tens of thousands of prepaid debit cards, prosecutors alleged.

After purchasing the crime proceeds, participants allegedly used stolen personally identifiable information to open various types of accounts and transfer the proceeds into bank accounts linked with the media outlet and related entities.

They were often laundered again through other accounts, including Guan’s own personal bank and crypto accounts, according to prosecutors.

To hide the illegal nature of the proceeds, Guan and his co-conspirators allegedly lied to banks and other entities about their sources.

An attorney for Guan could not immediately be reached, but a case docket showed late Monday that Guan had been appointed a public defender.

A spokesperson for the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to provide any additional comment on the indictment against Guan, which was filed in late May and unsealed Monday.

The bank fraud counts each carry a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, while the conspiracy holds a 20-year maximum prison sentence. The charges against Guan “do not relate to the Media Company’s newsgathering activities,” the Department of Justice noted in a press release.

NBC News and other outlets have reported on The Epoch Times’ affiliation with the Chinese religious group Falun Gong, which in recent years has supported former President Donald Trump as an ally in its opposition to the country’s ruling Chinese Communist Party.

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