Three media companies, including one based in Arizona, agreed to a $539 million settlement agreement with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday after being charged with conducting an illegal fundraising campaign.
The three companies are all connected to Guo Wengui, a Chinese real estate mogul who fled his home country in 2014, according to the Wall Street Journal. Guo is wanted in China for alleged money laundering, fraud and corruption, but has reportedly been living in New York for years after seeking political asylum in the U.S.
The three respondents agreed to pay more than $539 million to settle the SEC’s action but did not admit to or deny any alleged violations of securities law. Combined, the respondents will return more than $486 million to investors, pay $18 million in interest to investors and pay $35 million in civil penalties to the SEC.
During his exile, Guo created digital media sites called gnews.org and gtv.org, which publish articles and videos that target the ruling Chinese Communist Party and spread conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines.
The three companies — Scottsdale-based Voice of Guo Media Inc. and New York City-based GTV Media Group Inc. and Saraca Media Group Inc. — were charged with allegedly conducting illegal unregistered offerings of GTV common stock and digital asset securities, according to a Monday announcement from the SEC.