Arizona Woman Is at the Center of Alleged Fraud Ring Run by Steve Bannon and Chinese Billionaire

In June of last year, Steve Bannon and the Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui stood on a yacht in front of the Statue of Liberty. Propeller planes were circling above them. Bannon read out a declaration, announcing the creation of the so-called “New Federal State of China.” Guo, who has been living in exile in the U.S. since 2014, signed it with blood.

The bizarre stunt marked the launch of a new partnership between Bannon and Guo — one that quickly became the subject of a massive federal investigation. Their organization has the stated aim of overthrowing the Chinese government. In September, after months of rumors of a federal probe, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced that three companies with ties to Guo and Bannon had agreed to pay $539 million in a settlement. They had solicited thousands of investments in an illegal stock offering and in a digital currency called “G-Coins,” which Guo had claimed, with few details, could be exchanged for gold.

At the center of the SEC’s investigation — and Bannon and Guo’s political movement — is an Arizona company run by a Tucson woman named Sara Wei Lafrenz. That company, Voice of Guo Media, Inc., was one of three entities that settled with the SEC over the illegal offerings. A YouTube channel and now-suspended Twitter profile indicate that Voice of Guo Media served as one of Guo and Bannon’s many propaganda machines: It churned out screeds against China’s communist regime, alongside anti-mask content and praise for Bannon’s political entanglements.

Lafrenz is also accused of running another embezzlement scheme in Arizona, in part to pay off debts related to the federal investigation.

So: Who is Sara Wei Lafrenz?

Per court documents, Lafrenz was one of the “most visible leaders” of Guo’s movement, and ran a Phoenix-based branch of Guo’s political project, known colloquially as the Phoenix “farm.” She’s named alongside Guo in a Texas lawsuit alleging that Guo led a large-scale harassment campaign against a Chinese refugee and pastor in Texas, forcing him to evacuate his home, as well as a separate class-action lawsuit brought by investors in “G-Coins” and Guo’s illegal stock offerings.

The physical address of Voice of Guo Media, Lafrenz’s company, was previously listed as a home in Tucson that belongs to Lafrenz’s ex-husband, a local tax preparer. Since February, though, the company has been registered at a P.O. box in Scottsdale, and is now defunct, after agreeing to pay $59 million as its share of the SEC settlement.

A lawsuit filed in Arizona District Court last month accuses Lafrenz, along with several of her associates and a Phoenix-based company called Maywind Trading, LLC, of operating another fraud scheme that allegedly misused tens of millions of dollars from other Guo allies.

Per that lawsuit, brought by a New York company called Mountains of Spices, LLC (which allegedly has close ties to Guo, a source told the Daily Beast), Lafrenz accepted nearly $90 million for a fraudulent “loan program” that she ran with her son, a University of Arizona student who served as the firm’s “de facto chief financial officer,” according to the lawsuit.  Lenders, including Mountains of Spices, received no accounting of their money. They say the funds were instead funneled to buy real estate in Texas and to pay off the liabilities to investors that the SEC was investigating.

The disappearance of the money became apparent to lenders at the beginning of 2020, according to the lawsuit, prompting protests at Lafrenz’s Tucson residence. She went into hiding for a brief time, the suit says — around the same time that the company’s address was changed. Even so, Lafrenz has continued to stream daily on her Discord and YouTube channels.

The lawsuit against Lafrenz alleges constructive fraud, unjust enrichment, conversion, and negligent misrepresentation, and is currently pending in federal court.

Lafrenz’s attorneys did not return inquiries from Phoenix New Times, and Lafrenz could not be reached for comment.



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