When controversial broadcaster Alex Jones was ordered to pay $1.5 billion in damages to the families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, it could safely be said that most people were pleased with the outcome.
For years, Jones used his online talk show Infowars to claim that the 2012 mass shooting was a hoax staged by the government to punish those who supported gun ownership. But frustratingly, just because he was ordered to pay damages, it does not mean the victims’ families received payment in a timely fashion. Jones used a variety of tactics to hide his assets, frustrating both the courts and the victims.
A recent investigation by The New York Times uncovered some of the strategies Jones has been using, including transferring money and other assets to close associates, and declaring bankruptcy as an individual and through his corporation, Free Speech Systems. A close look at these findings can cast light on the practice of hiding assets and how experts can help victims in such cases.
Concealing funds through associates
Free Speech Systems, the company that owns Infowars, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July 2022. In December, Jones personally filed for bankruptcy protection. Originally, Jones told a bankruptcy court in Texas that he had only about $5.6 million in assets to his name.
However, the new investigation found that Jones had much more money than he had revealed – for example, Jones spent $80,000 on a private jet, security, and a villa during his time in Connecticut last year to testify at trial.
How did he fly under the radar? Reportedly, in October 2021, Jones made an agreement with Auriam Services, founded by his friend and lifestyle blogger Anthony Gucciardi, to serve as a credit card processing intermediary. This kind of agreement would allow Jones to earn money that would appear to be paid to a third party, so it could remain hidden from the courts. Then in February 2022, Jones reportedly transferred his 5,400 sq ft estate in Austin, Texas to his wife Erika Wulff Jones.
Jones has had to provide a full explanation of where these assets kept going, so he appeared to offer partial truths. He claimed to have money in multiple bank accounts that he is not personally aware of, in addition to $10 million worth of property and a monthly income of $129,000.
These new admissions may be a result of a lawsuit filed by Sandy Hook families accusing Jones of concealing funds up to $11,000 per day and “up to 80 percent of his [dietary] supplement sales.” They also pointed out that Infowars was claiming to owe a suspiciously large amount of money to one entity, PQPR Holdings, and that Jones had “an alphabet soup of shell entities” owed by himself, his children, his parents, and other Infowars insiders.
Creating new entities to hide money
In a court filing in March, a trustee appointed to oversee Infowars’ financial processes during the bankruptcy proceedings said that she heard “a rumor” about a new entity called Mountain Way Marketing LLC, created in August 2022 by an Infowars employee. In a strange twist, Mountain Way was found to be marketing ads for the Infowars broadcast and invoicing the advertisers, even though Infowars had never marketed external ads in the history of its existence. It appeared the company was simply created to hide money from the Sandy Hook parents and the court.
When the court brought this issue to Jones’ attention, Mountain Way and Jones committed to returning the funds and ceasing these marketing activities. However, Mountain Way was made to return the money to Free Speech Systems and Jones himself, so the money actually ended up being returned to the very person who had it to start.
How to identify assets and begin the recovery process
When those required to turn over assets conceal them through family members, friends, shell companies or third-party “vendors,” as Jones has done, experts must step in to locate the assets.
Interfor develops a full financial profile on a subject by investigating the locations and worth of all real property, personal property, interests in properties, business entities, stocks, bonds, accounts receivable, royalties, patents, and other valuable assets. It also examines the assets of spouses and family members for possible transfers, corporations associated with the subject and the subject’s partners – all actions that would have caught and brought Jones’ activities into the public eye much earlier in the timeline.
It helps if experts have an extensive investigative network. Interfor conducts a lifestyle analysis to determine how the target meets current obligations and examines what business they are currently conducting. It works as a team with legal counsel to use international experience to assist in freezing assets for later collection.
As a world leader in asset search and recovery, Interfor has developed the unique capability to locate concealed or undisclosed hidden assets, including international “safe havens.”