DOJ Says Epoch Times Is an Epic Money-Laundering Operation

A woman distributes the multi-language newspapers The Epoch Times newspaper featuring on its front cover the former US President Donald J. Trump in Hong Kong.

One of the strangest stories in media over the past decade is the Epoch Times, a formerly free newspaper distributed on the streets of New York that focuses on conspiracist, right-wing takes and reports that are extremely critical of the Chinese Communist Party. Founded in 2000, it effectively functions as a propaganda wing of Falun Gong, the religious movement headquartered upstate that is also behind Shen Yun, the anti-communist show with the inescapable subway ads. During the Trump years, the Epoch Times successfully expanded its operation on YouTube and Facebook, reaching millions of Americans with clickbait and misinformation. According to the Justice Department, it also functioned as a massive money-laundering scheme for one of its executives.

On Monday, federal prosecutors in New York charged the Epoch Times’ chief financial officer, Bill Guan, with conspiracy to commit money laundering for allegedly moving at least $67 million in illegally obtained funds to bank accounts in the media outlet’s name. According to the indictment, Guan was in charge of something (rather suspiciously) called the “Make Money Online” team, in which Guan and underlings “used cryptocurrency to knowingly purchase tens of millions of dollars in crime proceeds.” The alleged scheme was fairly simple, relying on prepaid debit cards, which are a common method in crypto laundering. The Make Money Online team, based abroad, would allegedly purchase “proceeds of fraudulently obtained unemployment insurance benefits” loaded onto prepaid cards. The team then allegedly traded them for cryptocurrency at 70 to 80 percent of the cards’ actual value. After making the deal, the Feds claim that those funds would then be transferred into bank accounts associated with the Epoch Times as well as into Guan’s personal bank accounts.

It appears that the Make Money Online team lived up to its name. The Feds say that at the same time that Guan allegedly concocted the money-laundering scheme, the Epoch Times’ annual revenue shot up 410 percent, from $15 million to around $62 million. Its bankers naturally had questions, but Guan said that the windfall came from donations, per the indictment. (Unfortunately for him, he also wrote to a congressional office in 2022, stating that donations are “an insignificant portion of the overall revenue” of the Epoch Times.) Guan has not yet entered a plea, and prosecutors note that the “charges do not relate to the Media Company’s newsgathering activities.”

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