One of the most moneyed men in Donald Trump’s orbit has just been charged by the U.S. for fraud.
Guo Wengui, a Chinese fugitive living in the U.S., was arrested(Opens in a new tab) on Wednesday and hit with a series of wire fraud, securities fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering charges. The billionaire fled China in 2014 and has been living in New York. He has been sought by China’s government.
A major part of Guo’s alleged fraud was his Himalayan Exchange, a cryptocurrency “ecosystem,” that included a stablecoin dubbed the Himalaya Dollar and a crypto token called Himalaya Coin.
Guo had presented(Opens in a new tab) Himalayan Exchange as an opportunity for investors to make money and overthrow the Chinese government via crypto. In reality, their investments were, it appears, going directly into Guo’s bank accounts. Guo allegedly bilked $262 million out of his victims under this scheme.
Since arriving in the U.S. Guo has been associated with figures in conservative politics.
In July 2021, former Trump administration communications director Jason Miller launched a brand new alternative social media platform for conservatives called GETTR. Shortly after, a report(Opens in a new tab) from The Daily Beast uncovered that Guo was a major financial backer of the social network.
“Some of the initial seed money has come from [Guo’s] family foundation,” Miller told the outlet at the time. Miller also claimed that Guo wasn’t a direct investor in the company.
However, according to the indictment(Opens in a new tab) filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, a large chunk of Guo’s ill-gotten funds were held in a bank account in the name of “GETTR USA, Inc.”
Authorities seized a total of $634 million from 21 different bank accounts containing the proceeds of the alleged fraud. Of that amount, more than $2.7 million was held in the GETTR account.
Guo may have also been more integral in GETTR’s operation than the alleged fraudster has publicly let one. According to The Daily Beast, a host on Guo’s own media outlet, GTV, claimed that GETTR was “the concentration of [Guo’s] whole life work.” The GTV host even asserted that Guo had created GETTR’s torch logo.
Mashable has reached out to GETTR for comment and will update this piece when we hear back.
Guo also formed a relationship with former-president Trump’s 2016 political strategist Steve Bannon, as both are major critics of China’s ruling Chinese Communist Party. In fact, when Bannon was arrested by authorities on fraud charges in August 2020, it was on Guo’s yacht that he was apprehended.
A business partner of Guo’s, Kin Ming Je, was also indicted on Wednesday and was hit with an additional obstruction of justice charge.
“As alleged, Ho Wan Kwok, known to many as Miles Guo [and Guo Wengui], led a complex conspiracy to defraud thousands of his online followers out of over $1 billion dollars,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams in a statement.
According to Williams, Guo used his fraudulently gained riches to buy himself and his close family members expensive luxuries such as “a 50,000 square foot mansion, a $3.5 million Ferrari, and even two $36,000 mattresses, and financing a $37 million luxury yacht.”
As of the publishing of this article, officials in New York are investigating(Opens in a new tab) a fire that broke out at the hotel where Guo was arrested earlier Wednesday morning.