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Epoch Times embroiled in alleged cryptocurrency money laundering scheme

The chief financial officer of the Epoch Times, a right-wing news outlet, has been arrested and charged with laundering $67 million in criminal proceeds through the use of cryptocurrency, the Department of Justice said Monday.

Weidong Guan, 61, also known as Bill Guan, is charged with one count of conspiring to commit money laundering and two counts of bank fraud between 2020 and 2024. U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement that Guan “conspired with others to benefit himself, the media company, and its affiliates.”

Federal prosecutors allege that in a “sprawling, transnational scheme,” Guan and others used cryptocurrency to purchase proceeds obtained through insurance fraud and other illegal means before moving it to various accounts associated with the Epoch Times, contributing to a jump in the company’s revenue of around 410 percent. Guan claimed the increased revenue came from donations, the Justice Department said.

In a statement issued Monday, the Epoch Times said it would cooperate with the investigation and had suspended Guan until the matter is resolved.

The operation was carried out by a department under Guan’s management called the “Make Money Online” team, prosecutors allege. The team is accused of using cryptocurrency to buy crime proceeds — including “fraudulently obtained unemployment insurance benefits” — at 70 to 80 cents on the dollar.

The money was then deposited into bank accounts opened using stolen personal identification information and transferred to accounts associated with Guan and the Epoch Times, according to the Justice Department.

The Epoch Times was founded in 2000 by Chinese Americans in an effort to counter Chinese government propaganda. It has long denied ties to the Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that has been banned by the Chinese Communist Party — but experts say the publication is sympathetic to the movement and has reflected the Falun Gong’s political positions in its coverage of the Chinese government, The Washington Post has reported.

The Epoch Times grew from a free newspaper in New York to a media company with a presence throughout the Western world and Asia in languages including English and Chinese, though it is not banned in China.

In 2019, it was barred from advertising on Facebook because of its pro-Trump ads that the social network said breached its rules about political advertising and transparency. The newspaper objected to the ban and said it had been running a “very popular digital marketing campaign for our print-newspaper subscriptions.”

An NBC News investigation that year found the outlet had spent more than $1.5 million over six months to boost thousands of pro-Trump posts, the most of any organization besides Donald Trump’s official campaign. The Epoch Times said the report was “incorrect.”

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