US authorities have arrested Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, an associate of former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon, and charged him with orchestrating a billion-dollar fraud, according to ABC News.
Guo, charged in court papers as Ho Wan Kwok was charged with 12 counts including wire fraud, securities fraud, bank fraud and money laundering in an indictment on Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York said in a news release.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement that Guo had led a complex conspiracy to defraud thousands of his online followers out of more than $1 billion.
Guo and his alleged co-conspirator Kin Ming Je, also known as William Je, are accused of taking advantage of Guo’s online presence to solicit investments in various companies and programs by “promising outsized financial returns and other benefits,” prosecutors said. They then misappropriated hundreds of millions of dollars of fraudulently obtained funds, which Guo allegedly used on a lavish lifestyle.
“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,” Williams said.
A fire broke out at Guo’s Manhattan penthouse apartment hours after he was arrested.
A spokesman for the city’s fire department said the fire was put out, no injuries were reported and the cause is still under investigation.
In an online post earlier, Guo said he was handcuffed and interrogated for more than an hour.
He later pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan federal court on Wednesday and was ordered to be detained without bail.