The chief financial officer of the Epoch Times was charged with laundering at least $67 million in illegally obtained funds to bolster the fortunes of the newspaper and himself.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) charged Weidong Guan, also known as Bill Guan, with one count of conspiring to commit money laundering and two counts of bank fraud in an indictment unsealed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The Epoch Times is a right-leaning newspaper affiliated with Falun Gong, a spiritual movement banned in China. The DOJ said the charges against Guan “do not relate to the media company’s newsgathering activities.” The agency did not name the Epoch Times as Guan’s employer, but the connection was acknowledged by the company in an online statement.

The details: From approximately 2020 to May 2024, Guan and others used fraudulent debit cards and cryptocurrency to “knowingly purchase tens of millions of dollars in crime proceeds, including proceeds of fraudulently obtained unemployment insurance benefits,” according to a DOJ press release. Guan allegedly opened accounts with stolen personal identifications and funneled unemployment insurance benefits to bank and cryptocurrency accounts controlled by the newspaper and himself.

During the same period, the company’s internal financial accounting “reflected an increased annual revenue over the previous year of approximately 410 percent—from approximately $15 million to approximately $62 million,” the DOJ said.

Guan faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on the money laundering charge and up to 30 years in prison on each of the two counts of bank fraud.

Compliance considerations: The alleged scheme came to light after the risk management division of a bank servicing the Epoch Times and Guan noticed unusual transactions and requested invoices for the deposited funds. Guan told the bank all the money came from “online donations” and asked another newspaper employee to begin generating fraudulent “donation notification” emails for each transaction, according to the indictment.

The bank also identified one of the newspaper’s bank accounts had a “suspiciously high ‘chargeback ratio’—that is, the percentage of transactions unauthorized by the customer and therefore refunded—for fraud that exceeded the industry standard.”

A second bank, an internal whistleblower, a prepaid debit card company, and two cryptocurrency platforms all contacted Guan with concerns about potential money laundering activity in his accounts, according to the indictment. The second bank sent more than 1,700 automated emails informing Guan his account was receiving a high volume of transactions coming from the same source, inconsistent with his claim the funds were the result of individual donations, the indictment continued.

Guan also lied about the source of the funds in a letter to Congress, the DOJ said.

Company response: “The Epoch Times has a guiding principle that elevates integrity in its dealings above everything else. The company intends to and will fully cooperate with any investigation dealing with the allegations against Mr. Guan,” it said in its statement. “In the interim, although Mr. Guan is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the company has suspended him until this matter is resolved.”