Some of the agents were still at Guo’s 15-room penthouse in the Sherry-Netherland Hotel on Manhattan’s Upper East Side the afternoon of March 15, six hours after he’d been arrested there, when a mysterious fire broke out on the 18th floor, responders said.
No injuries were reported, but authorities said the blaze significantly damaged Guo’s unit. No one drew any immediate connections to the arrest.
Guo – also known as Guo Wengui – and his financier, Kin Ming Je, are charged in an indictment unsealed Wednesday in Manhattan with soliciting "investments in various entities and programs through false statements and representations to hundreds of thousands" of online followers.
The government has seized more than $630 million from nearly two dozen bank accounts associated with the alleged fraud, said Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Guo, 54, has been sought by Beijing for extradition from the United States on charges of money laundering, bribery and rape. He has called the charges baseless accusations aimed at silencing his vocal opposition to the Chinese Communist Party.
Guo also is an ally and business associate of former key Trump campaign strategist Steve Bannon, with whom he’s conducted anti-CCP events and ventures.
Bannon, who is credited with preventing Guo’s extradition, teamed up with him to create an online media platform that at times reported false news and worked on advertisements promoting some of the investment ventures for which Guo was indicted.
The pair flew a flag over the Statue of Liberty in June 2020 from a yacht that was financed partly by the purported schemes, federal authorities alleged. It's also the same yacht on which Bannon was arrested that same summer on fraud and money laundering charges. Trump later pardoned him.
SEE: Public Puzzled By Planes Circling State Of Liberty: 'Welcome To Federal State Of New China'
The 12-count federal grand jury indictment charges Guo and Je – who remained at large Wednesday -- with wire fraud, securities fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering.
Among the luxuries the indictment alleges Guo bought with investor money: a $3.5 million Ferrari, a $4.4 million Bugatti, Chinese and Persian rugs worth nearly $1 million, a $140,000 piano and two $36,000 mattresses -- as well as the famed Crocker Mansion in northwest Bergen County.
Built by railroad baron Charles Crocker 100 years ago, the 50,000-square-foot castle on 12 acres of land in the Ramapo Mountains was once a seminary owned by the Archdiocese of Newark.
Guo reportedly bought it for $26.5 million in 2021.
Guo, who previously denied cheating followers, fled China in 2014 ahead of fraud charges there and has remained in exile ever since. His vocal opposition to the CCP – as well as false claims that Bannon helped him spread about COVID and the 2020 election – have made him a right-wing darling in the United States.
Several of Guo’s heavily marketed investment opportunities came with promises of profit, as well as his contention that the money would help “take down” the CCP and replace it with what he and Bannon call the New Federal State of China.
Guo was only looking to profit himself, federal authorities allege.
He began conducting “fraudulent securities offering” in April 2020 and raised “at least hundreds of millions of dollars from investors in the United States and around the world,” the Securities and Exchange Commission alleged in a separate civil suit filed on Wednesday.
The criminal indictment following an FBI investigation, meanwhile, alleges a “series of complex fraudulent and fictitious businesses and investment opportunities” that benefitted Guo and Je personally by more than $300 million.
The partners solicited money from their followers for an unregistered $452 million common stock placement for Guo’s GTV Media Group, the indictment alleges.
Another of the bogus boondoggles, it says, involved a cryptocurrency “ecosystem” with a purported stablecoin called the Himalaya Dollar, which Guo allegedly claimed was backed by gold reserves and which the government says netted $262 million.
In the end, it was a typical pyramid scheme, federal prosecutors said.
A smoking gun, they said, is an alleged network uncovered by the FBI of more than 500 money laundering accounts controlled by some 80 people and entities.
Guo, who once had a reported net worth of $1.1 billion, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy a year ago.
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