Federal authorities seized close to $3 million from the social media platform Gettr popular with conservatives, during a billion-dollar fraud investigation into one of its original investors, The Verge reports(Opens in a new window).
The Justice Department arrested the Chinese billionaire investor Guo Wengui, on Wednesday for allegedly defrauding people out of more than $1 billion. The exiled dissident who lives in Manhattan is also known as Ho Wan Kwok and Miles Guo.
In the DOJ’s indictment, Guo is accused of manipulating his nearly 900,000 followers on Gettr into investing millions into cryptocurrency and anti-Chinese Communist Party “media scams,” The Verge reports. Guo pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan federal court on the same day as his arrest. He was ordered to be detained without bail.
The indictment alleges that Mr. Guo and his business partner Kin Ming Je persuaded Guo’s Gettr followers, many of whom are Chinese nationals living in the West, to fund what they thought were media businesses and an exclusive membership club.
Gettr, which did not immediately reply to a request for comment, describes itself as a social media platform “founded on the principles of free speech, independent thought and rejecting political censorship and ‘cancel culture.’”
According to the BBC(Opens in a new window), a fire broke out at the billionaire’s penthouse apartment overlooking Central Park hours after he was arrested. Authorities are reportedly(Opens in a new window) investigating whether that blaze, which happened while FBI agents were still searching it, was sparked remotely.
Guo, who is a friend of former chief Trump advisor Steve Bannon, is accused by federal prosecutors of using funds he swindled from his followers to buy a $26.5 million New Jersey mansion, a $37 million yacht, on top of a $36,000 mattress, and a $140,000 piano.
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Sources speaking to The New York Post added that the politically well-connected Chinese businessman hosted ex-UK Prime Minister Tony Blair inside his New York apartment.
Bannon was arrested on Guo’s yacht(Opens in a new window) last year for his alleged role in a fundraising scam to help President Trump build a wall between the US and Mexico. Bannon has pleaded not guilty(Opens in a new window) to charges of money laundering.
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