He bought luxury mansions, luxury cars, luxury yachts, and lived like a king. But it all came crashing down on him today. Busted for ripping off investors in a multi jurisdictional Ponzi scheme, Guo Wengui has had every penny he stole seized by the United States government. Now he is currently facing a detention request by prosectors who claim he is a severe flight risk.
Steve Bannon’s wealthy patron “led a complex conspiracy to defraud thousands of his online followers,” federal prosecutors allege.
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 won him friends on the American 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.
More From Law and Crime
Chinese fugitive Guo Wengui, a Steve Bannon associate and self-styled “political dissident and anti-corruption whistleblower,” has been arrested and indicted by federal prosecutors in an alleged billion-dollar fraud scheme.
Born Ho Wan Kwok, Guo goes by many other aliases, including Miles Guo, Miles Kwok, “Brother Seven,” and “The Principal.” He exploded onto the U.S. political scene during the Donald Trump era through his ties to the former president’s one-time chief strategist. He is also a member of Trump’s club Mar-a-Lago.
Wanted in China on corruption and rape charges, Guo fled to the United States in 2014 and he burnished an image here as a dissident. Guo and Bannon appeared onstage together during a press conference on November 2018, announcing the so-called “Rule of Law” fund purporting to expose corruption in China. Bannon, who became its chairman, was on Guo’s yacht when he was arrested for allegedly defrauding We Build the Wall donors, charges for which Trump pardoned him.
On Wednesday, it was Guo’s turn to be arrested by U.S. federal authorities.
“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,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement. “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.”
The most recent charges against Guo do not have any public connection to Bannon, who is being prosecuted separately in New York State court on unrelated charges. The only co-defendant listed in Guo’s indictment is Kin Ming Je, also known as “William Je,” a dual Hong Kong and U.K. national. Prosecutors say that Je owned and operated “numerous companies and investments central to the scheme,” serving as its “financial architect and key money launderer.”
Prosecutors say that Guo lied to his victims and promised them lucrative returns if they invested in a number of entities such as GTV Media Group, Himalaya Farm Alliance, G|CLUBS, and the Himalaya Exchange. GTV sold $452 million worth of stock to more than 5,500 investors.
Prosecutors released photographs of their alleged ill-gotten gains.
On its website, G|CLUBS billed itself as “an exclusive, high-end membership program offering a full spectrum of services” and “a gateway to carefully curated world-class products, services and experiences.” Prosecutors say, however, that it used “a complex web of entities and bank accounts” to route victims’ money to Guo’s 50,000 square foot New Jersey mansion, adorned with $978,000 worth of Chinese and Persian rugs, a $62,000 television, and a $53,000 fireplace log cradle holder.
The defendants were simultaneously charged civilly by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
“We allege that Guo was a serial fraudster, who raised more than $850 million by promising investors outsized returns on purported crypto, technology and luxury good investment opportunities,” the SEC’s Enforcement Division director Gurbir S. Grewal wrote. “In reality, Guo took advantage of the hype and allure surrounding crypto and other investments to victimize thousands and fund his and his family’s lavish lifestyle.”
Guo, 52, and Je, 56, both face 11 federal charges that could carry close to a 200-year maximum prison sentence on counts including wire fraud, securities fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy.
Je, who remains at large, separately faces a count of obstruction of justice, which carries an additional 20-year maximum sentence.
Read the indictment here.