The U.S. Department of Justice today (March 15) charged Guo Wengui, a Chinese billionaire who fled to the U.S. in 2014, with orchestrating a massive online conspiracy that defrauded thousands of his social media followers out of $1 billion. Guo’s financier, Kin Ming Je, was also charged.
Guo had hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, according to the indictment. Guo and Je allegedly solicited money from Guo’s followers while promising huge returns. He promised followers the money would be transferred to common stock in his companies, be converted to cryptocurrency and pay for private club memberships. With the funds, Guo purchased a 50,000 square foot mansion, a $37 million yacht, a $3.5 million Ferrari and two $36,000 mattresses, according to the document. His Twitter account appears to have been suspended for multiple years. In 2018, Guo had 500,000 Twitter followers.
The indictment follows another lawsuit filed in December by the Department of Justice in which eight Twitter users allegedly engaged in a pump-and-dump stock scheme worth $114 million. The influencers presented themselves as successful stock traders and encouraged their followers to buy certain stocks to inflate the price and enrich themselves, according to the complaint.
Guo is self-made property tycoon. He fled China in 2014 following accusations of bribery, kidnapping, fraud and rape from Chinese authorities, which he said were part of a misinformation campaign against him, according to the Wall Street Journal. Since living in the U.S., he has been an outspoken critic of the Chinese Communist Party. He is also a member of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. Guo also goes by the names Miles Guo, Miles Kwok and Ho Wan Kwok.
Guo and Je, who also goes by William Je, were charged with wire fraud, securities fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering. Je was additionally charged with obstruction of justice. The two have conspired to defraud social media users since at least 2018, according to the indictment.