Guo Wengui at his Upper East side apartment on November 28, 2017.Timothy Clary/Getty

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Guo Wengui, an erratic Chinese exile who has a close relationship with Steve Bannon, was arrested Wednesday and charged with running a massive scheme to defraud an international coterie of online fans out of more than $1 billion.

According to a federal indictment unsealed this morning, Guo, who also uses the names Miles Guo and Ho Wan Kwok, has been charged with 12 counts, including wire fraud, securities fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering. Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York also said that they have seized approximately $634 million from 21 different bank accounts controlled by Guo since September. Guo has previously denied cheating followers and has attributed various legal problems to what he claims is an effort by the Chinese government to silence him.

Guo, who fled China in 2014 ahead of fraud charges there, has since crafted an identity as a prominent critic of the Chinese Communist Party. That brand that won him friends on US right, most prominently Bannon, as well as an ardent following in the Chinese diaspora, which formed online clubs to support him. With Bannon’s help, Guo used Chinese language media companies to pump out wild, false claims about Covid and the 2020 election. As Mother Jones has reported, Guo also bombarded his fans with solicitations to invest in a slew of ventures. He promised that investors would profit, and he also claimed their investments would help “take down the CCP” by boosting an entity called the New Federal State of China that he and Bannon founded in 2020. That organization claims to be prepared to replace China’s government.

In indicting Guo, prosecutors said this was all a scam. Rather than taking down China’s rulers, Guo’s aim was to enrich himself, according to the charges. “As alleged, Ho Wan Kwok, known to many as ‘Miles Guo,’ led a complex conspiracy to defraud thousands of his online followers out of over $1 billion dollars,” Damian Williams, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said Wednesday. “Kwok is charged with lining his pockets with the money he stole, including buying himself, and his close relatives, a 50,000 square foot mansion, a $3.5 million Ferrari, and even two $36,000 mattresses, and financing a $37 million luxury yacht.”

That is the same yacht on which Bannon was arrested in 2020, when he was charged with defrauding donors to a different organization, We Build the Wall, which was raising money from supporters of Donald Trump to help build a wall on the Mexican border. Trump pardoned Bannon, but Bannon has since been charged in New York state with similar crimes. He denies wrongdoing.

Daniel Friedman

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