Jacob Wohl

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Jacob Wohl
Born (1997-12-12) December 12, 1997 (age 21)
NationalityAmerican
OccupationConspiracy theorist, fraudster, and internet troll
Parent(s)
  • David Wohl (father)
Websitejacobwohl.org

Jacob Wohl (born December 12, 1997)[1] is an American far-right[2][3][4] conspiracy theorist,[5][6][7] fraudster,[5][8][9][10][11] and internet troll.[12][13] He was formerly an online blogger and a columnist for the website The Gateway Pundit.[12][14][15][16]

Wohl drew attention in 2018 after news outlets reported his and Jack Burkman's failed plot to discredit Robert Mueller, the U.S. Special Counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, by attempting to frame him for sexual misconduct.[1][8][6] In April 2019, Wohl and Burkman again received media attention, this time for attempting to frame Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana and declared 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, for sexual assault.[17][18]

Wohl has created and promulgated other false or unfounded claims and conspiracy theories, mainly against Democratic Party politicians such as Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris, and Ilhan Omar.[3][4][19] On February 26, 2019, Twitter permanently banned Wohl for violating its rules regarding creating and operating fake accounts.[20] To aid his schemes, Wohl created multiple fake private intelligence agencies,[21] and has fabricated death threats and protests against himself.[22][23]

The National Futures Association (NFA) banned Wohl for life in 2017. The NFA had received investor complaints about his activity, and upon completing its investigation, concluded that Wohl was guilty of refusing to cooperate with the NFA as required, misrepresenting investments and misleading investors.[3][24][25] Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) charged Wohl with 14 counts of securities fraud in the same year, and forced him to pay $32,919 in restitution.[26][27][24]

Career[edit]

NeX Capital, Montgomery Assets, and "Wohl Girls"[edit]

Wohl founded investment funds Wohl Capital Investment Group (WCIG), NeX Capital Management (NeX), and Montgomery Assets, Inc. (MAI) as a teenager. He posted Craigslist ads for "Wohl Girls," models who were hired to help attract clients, and a number of "salacious" websites including "WohlGirls.com" were registered to his name. One model alleged that Wohl posted photographs of her online without her permission.[24]

In 2016 the National Futures Association (NFA) investigated NeX Capital Management after receiving an investor complaint. The investor said that Wohl had said his $75,000 investment had grown, but paid only $44,000 when the investor demanded the money be returned. Wohl claimed that the difference was due to losses, but the NFA found that Wohl's trading accounts "appeared to have made, not lost, money overall". Some of the money, the NFA alleged, had been diverted into his mother's brokerage accounts. The NFA said Wohl made an unbalanced presentation of profit potential and risk of loss to clients, and had misled investors by claiming to have been trading for ten years, which would have been since he was nine years old. Wohl hid from NFA investigators when they came to his house. Wohl's father, an attorney, threatened to sue the NFA for harassment. In 2017, the NFA banned Wohl for life.[25][3][24][28]

In 2017, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) issued a cease-and-desist order to Wohl, WCIG, NeX, and MAI after it found they were in violation of securities laws. The ACC charged Wohl and his companies with 14 counts of securities fraud, including falsely representing investment risks, misrepresenting the amounts of assets managed, and falsely claiming in online advertisements on Craigslist that he, then 18, and his partner, then 27, had "over 35 years flipping homes". Wohl at one point claimed that he was managing 178 client accounts and combined total assets under management (AUM) of as much as $10,000,000, although the ACC said that he only had thirteen clients and an AUM of around $500,000. Wohl was forced by the ACC to pay $32,919 in restitution and $5,000 in penalties.[26][27][24]

Surefire Intelligence[edit]

In 2018, Wohl created and registered the company Surefire Intelligence, LLC. Reporters who investigated Surefire Intelligence's website and company in October 2018, in relation to an alleged plot to frame Robert Mueller for sexual assault, found that the company had been created by Wohl just a few weeks earlier and that its official phone number redirected to a voicemail message which provided a phone number owned by Wohl's mother.[6] They also reported that photographs on the website depicting some of its purported employees were actually photographs of people unrelated to Surefire, including actor Christoph Waltz. News agencies found profiles of supposed Surefire Intelligence employees on the LinkedIn professional networking site which used photographs of unrelated celebrities as profile images; a photograph of Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli was used on a profile claiming to be the company's "Tel Aviv station chief", and a profile of a "Matthew Cohen" used an altered photo of Wohl. A journalist visited the address listed on Surefire Intelligence's website and found it to be the location of an unrelated company.[29]

Soon after creating the company, Wohl advertised it as a team of private investigators on classified ad site Craigslist. In the ad, Wohl falsely claimed that Surefire consisted of former Israeli intelligence agents and various other investigative experts. At least once, Wohl posed as investigator "Matthew Cohen" to a potential client who responded to the ad. One paid him a $1,200 advance fee for help in recovering her stolen truck, but Wohl never performed any investigative services for the fee, nor did he return the money or contact her again.[30]

Minutes after Michael Avenatti was reported being arrested on suspicion of domestic violence on November 14, 2018, the Surefire Twitter account tweeted a news story about the arrest, adding, "Surefire Intelligence strikes again." The following morning, Avenatti tweeted, "First Mueller and now me. When we are fully exonerated I am coming for you Jacob Wohl aka Surefire."[31]

Blogger and columnist[edit]

From 2016, Wohl became a prominent online supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump. Trump posed for a photo op with Wohl and has retweeted him.[3][32] Wohl's defunct news blog, "The Washington Reporter", was found to have entirely plagiarized its Code of Ethics from that of the journalism non-profit ProPublica.[33][24][3] The NBC News reported that Wohl has "adopted and amplified nearly every prominent conspiracy theory to arise" in 2017, including unfounded claims against Hillary Clinton, George Soros, and the U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He was hired by the far-right outlet The Gateway Pundit in 2018, before being fired later that year as a result of his failed plot against Mueller.[3][34]

Attempts to frame public figures[edit]

Robert Mueller[edit]

On October 22, 2018, Vermont Law School professor Jennifer Taub received an email from Wohl's firm, Surefire Intelligence, asking her to report on "past encounters with Robert Mueller" and offering her money to discuss Mueller by phone. Taub stated she had never met Mueller and referred the matter to Mueller's office, which then referred the matter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).[35]

On October 30, NBC News and The Atlantic published articles detailing a scheme to falsely accuse U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller of sexual misconduct in 1974. The articles reported that on October 17, 2018, several journalists received emails from a person claiming to be named "Lorraine Parsons" that asserted conservative lobbyist Jack Burkman had hired a man with Wohl's firm, Surefire Intelligence, to offer her more than $20,000 to sign an affidavit falsely accusing Mueller of sexual misconduct and workplace harassment. "Parsons" told the reporters she had worked with Mueller at the law firm Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro in 1974, and that the man from Surefire had asked her to falsely accuse Mueller of engaging in misconduct during that time. Mueller worked at Pillsbury in 1974, but the firm told reporters they had no record of any Lorraine Parsons ever working there. "Parsons" declined reporters' requests to speak on the phone, and none of the reporters published the story until the scheme became evident.[6][36]

On October 30, Wohl tweeted, "Several media sources tell me that a scandalous story about Mueller is breaking tomorrow. Should be interesting. Stay tuned!"[37][38]

The Gateway Pundit, which employed Wohl, published the "Lorraine Parsons" allegations on October 30, including "exclusive documents" about a "very credible witness" to support the accusations against Mueller. Each document had in its header the phrase "International Private Intelligence," the business slogan of Wohl's firm, Surefire Intelligence. The article was removed later that day, with owner Jim Hoft stating that the matter and "serious allegations against Jacob Wohl" would be investigated.[6][37]

Jacob Wohl via Twitter
@JacobAWohl

Someone inside Mueller’s office likely sent out the hoax email claiming to be a woman offered payment to make an accusation against Mueller!

They know that Mueller’s real victims are coming forward!

Tick tock...

October 31, 2018[39]

The following day, Hoft retweeted a tweet by Wohl that suggested Mueller's office was actually behind the scheme.[39] Also that day, Burkman tweeted and Wohl retweeted that Parsons did not exist, denying involvement in the matter, and calling it "a hoax designed to distract the nation from [Burkman's] press conference" to be held the next day.[16]

Wohl and Burkman convened a press conference outside Washington on November 1, ostensibly to present a woman who they said signed an affidavit, which The Gateway Pundit had published, accusing Mueller of raping her in a New York hotel room in 2010—on a date he was contemporaneously reported by the Washington Post to be serving jury duty in Washington.[40] The men accused Mueller's office of "leaking" the eight-year-old Post story to discredit their allegations.[41]

The purported accuser, Carolyne Cass, did not appear at the press conference as they had initially stated she would, and the men asserted she had panicked in fear of her life and taken a flight to another location. Towards the end of the press conference, one reporter heckled, "Are you both prepared for federal prison?", to which Burkman replied "No we are not."[41] Soon after the press conference, Hoft announced that The Gateway Pundit had "suspended [their] relationship" with Wohl.[42][41]

On February 26, 2019, USA Today published an article about Wohl in which they interviewed Cass. She had initially contacted and offered $2,000 to Wohl, who was then posing as Cohen, on Craiglist in hopes that he would help recover some stolen money. Wohl did no work to recover the money, and instead offered Cass a position at his "intelligence" firm. Speaking of the document accusing Mueller produced by Wohl and his associates, she said that "They had made it up" with a fabricated signature of hers and that they "needed a credible female to put on the line". She said of Wohl: "He completely lied to me".[19][43]

In April 2019, the FBI declined a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for documents relating to Surefire Intelligence, explaining that "Acknowledging the existence or non-existence of records could reasonably be expected to interfere with law enforcement proceedings", citing FOIA exemption (b)(7)(A). Reporter Colin Kalmbacher commented on Law & Crime that this is a common excuse used by law enforcement agencies, which suggests that an active FBI criminal probe against Jacob Wohl is under way.[44]

Pete Buttigieg[edit]

On April 22, 2019, Jack Burkman tweeted "2020 is shaping up to be more exciting than 2016. Looking like it will be Trump vs. Mayor Pete! Get the popcorn ready!"[17]

On April 28, a Medium post emerged under the name of a gay Republican college student, alleging that Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana and a Democratic presidential candidate for 2020, had sexually assaulted him in February. David Wohl, Jacob's father, tweeted out an article about the post published by far-right website Big League Politics. A Twitter account created just a month prior under the student's name also emerged. The next day, The Daily Beast reported that Wohl and Jack Burkman had tried to convince young Republican men to make false accusations of sexual assault against Buttigieg. One man attested that Wohl and Burkman had tried to convince him to falsely accuse Buttigieg of assaulting him when he was too drunk to consent. According to the source, Wohl and Burkman contacted him under the false identities "Bill" and "Matt Teller", but he recognized Wohl due to Wohl's internet notoriety and decided to record their conversation. He then provided the recording to The Daily Beast, which wrote that it corroborated the man's claims with the aid of an audio forensics analyst who determined that one man in the recording was "highly likely" to be Wohl. The source said that he did not agree at the time to participate in the scheme, and that Wohl phoned him shortly thereafter to suggest he recommend his friends who would fit the role of playing victim. The phone number allegedly used by Wohl was discovered to have been listed on the website of "Potomac Intelligence Group", supposedly a private intelligence firm working for Saudi Arabia, with Matt Teller listed as one of the employees and linking to a LinkedIn profile page. Minutes after Wohl was contacted by The Daily Beast, the website and the LinkedIn page were taken down, and the phone number was disconnected.[17][18][45][46] In addition to "Potomac Intelligence", Wohl was later found to be linked to least four other fake intelligence firms.[21]

The student who was being impersonated on Medium and Twitter told The Daily Beast that Wohl and Burkman flew him to Washington, D.C. under the guise of speaking about politics from the perspective of a gay Republican, and that he was unaware they were trying to involve him in their scheme. He said they had created the Medium profile and a Twitter profile claiming to be him without his permission.[17]

Wohl and Burkman announced that they would be holding a press conference at Burkman's house on May 8 to continue their accusations against Buttigieg. On May 7, Burkman tweeted a link to an event called "Protest Against Homophobic Bigots" and wrote, "Hundreds of leftist protestors are set to descend on our Wednesday Press conference. We WILL NOT surrender to the mob. We’ve called in extra security to guard our safety and that of our partners in the media." The protest was discovered to be fake, organized by Wohl himself, when attendees received confirmation emails containing the email address wohlthinktank@gmail.com, which Wohl had used in the past.[23] Mediaite noted that events may be registered with false contact information, but that Eventbrite would have emailed the address used by the organizer allowing them to delete or edit the event.[47] However, Wohl denied involvement in creating the event page. Eventbrite later took down the event page citing their rules against "inauthentic content".[23]

At the May 8 press conference, Wohl and Burkman displayed footage of the student they had flown to Washington, D.C. drinking a coffee as proof that the student was not being coerced, with Wohl explaining that "Most forced coercion events… do not involve caramel frappuccino." During the press conference, the student released a statement describing Wohl and Burkman as "chronic liars" and stating that he would not be at the press conference as they had claimed. No protesters appeared at the fake protest of the press conference that Wohl himself had attempted to organize.[48]

Other false and unfounded claims[edit]

Wohl was active on Twitter, which he used to spread dubious claims about Democratic politicians and post in support of President Donald Trump. In the February 26, 2019 interview with USA Today, Wohl said that he planned to create fake left-wing accounts to try to direct votes towards Democrats who would make weaker opponents for Donald Trump in the 2020 United States presidential election. Wohl also stated that he sought to solicit "damaging information" against left-leaning nonprofits such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, Media Matters for America, and Right Wing Watch, by providing insiders money or "moral reconciliation".[19]

On the same day as the USA Today article was published, Twitter permanently banned Wohl after an investigation found that he had already broken the site's rules against creating fake accounts.[19] The accounts Wohl operated included @Women_4_Schultz, an account purported to be a group of women supporting billionaire and former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz's possible 2020 presidential campaign, as well as @JWohlTreason, @DrakeHomes612, and @Ericshanzner.[49][50] When contacted by USA Today after the ban was placed, Wohl stated that he had created Twitter accounts for his businesses and "future think tank", but maintained that he had "not created fake accounts or bot armies or anything like that".[20] In a February 26 interview with NBC News, he said, "In my entire adult life, I’ve had three Twitter accounts," indicating his @JacobAWohl account, his intelligence company's Twitter account, and his think tank account. In the same interview, he first denied but later admitted to operating the @Women_4_Schultz account.[50]

Wohl said that the veracity of the information he spreads is not important, and that "All that matters is how far those claims travel, and how many people believe them." He further said that truth is an obsolete concept, stating that "It’s something that can’t be thought about in a linear, binary true-false, facts-non-facts – you can’t do that anymore [...] It’s just not the way it works."[19] He defended his attempt to manipulate elections, stating that "It is not illegal, unethical, or untoward for Americans to steer an American election." Without providing any evidence, Wohl claimed that antisemitism was behind his Twitter suspension, and that it was retribution for his purported "investigation" of Representative Ilhan Omar.[50]

Claims against Senator Kamala Harris[edit]

On January 22, 2019, Wohl made a claim on Twitter falsely suggesting that Democratic Senator and presidential candidate Kamala Harris is not an American citizen on account of her parents not being naturalized citizens at the time of her birth, and as such, is ineligible to be President. Harris was born in Oakland, California, and is therefore a U.S. citizen regardless of her parents' citizenship status at the time.[51] Politifact rated Wohl's claim "Pants on Fire."[4] A February 2019 post Wohl tweeted through @Women_4_Schultz that wrote Kamala Harris "does not represent American Women" and that she "traded sexual favors for public office" gained several hundred retweets and likes.[50]

Claims against Representative Ilhan Omar and Minneapolis[edit]

In February 2019, Wohl traveled to Minnesota with far-right conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer claiming to investigate rumors that Ilhan Omar, U.S. Representative for Minnesota's 5th congressional district and a Somali-American, had married her brother to grant him U.S. citizenship. Their trip was organized and followed by Ali Alexander, a Republican operative. Wohl set up an online fundraising campaign to try to raise $25,000 to fund the trip. In a subsequent series of tweets and live streams, Wohl claimed that Minneapolis had "no-go zones" infested by "Somali jihadists", that a local Somali man had threatened to kill him, that "Islamicist forces have taken over sections of [Minnesota's] police departments", and that he had to wear a bulletproof vest and travel with a team of "security professionals" in armored cars to avoid hitmen.[52][19][53][54] The team of "security professionals", however, did not appear in any of their livestreams, and Wohl declined livestream watchers' requests to film the armored cars and security team he claimed to have hired.[52] Star Tribune columnist Jennifer Brooks wrote that the group "cast lie after lie after lie into the wind" and that "for every minute they spent lying about conditions in Minnesota, they spent at least four begging for donations for their cause."[54] Pat Garofalo, a Republican state Representative for Minnesota, refuted Wohl's claim about "no-go zones" in a tweet, calling it "a lie" and "a farce".[19][53]

Wohl appeared on the grounds of the 2019 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) with Jack Burkman, ostensibly to present evidence from the "investigation", before being rejected from the conference grounds.[55][52] Vox debunked Wohl's conspiracy theory as "largely nonsensical", citing that there is no evidence that Ahmed Elmi, Omar's ex-husband whom Wohl claimed to be her brother, was related to Omar in any way; that U.S. law permits a citizen to petition citizenship for their siblings, voiding the need for a marriage; and that Elmi, a British citizen, has never received US citizenship.[52] Mother Jones wrote that Wohl's claims are "so far into tinfoil-hat territory".[55]

In mid March 2019, Wohl, Loomer, and Alexander released a documentary about their investigation into Omar in which they claimed that they have secured proof that she had married her brother. In the video, Wohl is shown filing a police report in a Minneapolis police station about death threats he claimed to have received while they were in the city. However, the Twitter account shown sending threats via direct message in the video was @DrakeHomes612, supposedly a "diversity coordinator" in Minneapolis, but actually one of the fake Twitter accounts Wohl had been operating himself. After news reports about Wohl's faked death threats came out, Alexander denied his involvement, said that he will investigate the issue, and condemned Wohl for lying in a clumsy way.[22][56] The Daily Dot noted that Wohl might have filmed himself committing the crime of filing a false police report.[57] On March 15, 2019, Aaron Delgado, a real estate agent from Minnesota, sued Wohl for stealing his Instagram photo and using it as the profile picture for Wohl's fake @DrakeHomes612 account. Delgado hired Michael Avenatti for the case, who announced that he will "pursue all available criminal and civil claims against Jacob Wohl. It is time that he face the consequences for his outrageous conduct. And I intend on ensuring that he does."[58]

"Hipster coffee shop"[edit]

Jacob Wohl via Twitter
@JacobAWohl

I just left a hipster coffee shop in downtown LA. There was a group of young Democrats murmuring to each other that they know the "Suspicious Packages" were an inside job to make Republicans look bad

October 24, 2018[59]

After Wohl made a popular tweet that he had "just left a hipster coffee" shop where he overheard "libs" (liberals) praising President Donald Trump's interactions with Vladimir Putin at the 2018 Russia–United States summit in Helsinki, other tweets by Wohl were uncovered that repeated the same phrase alongside claims that he had overheard groups of customers including liberals, Democrats, and Jewish people voicing support for Donald Trump or opposition to his political opponents.[27] These repeated events in similar locations were viewed to be improbable, and the tweets were mocked in an online meme in which people followed the phrase "just left a hipster coffee shop" with unlikely fictional scenarios.[60] Wohl later admitted that he had fabricated the conversations he claimed to have overheard.[19]

Other false claims[edit]

On February 6, 2019, Colin Campbell, an editor of The News & Observer, tweeted photos that showed two white students in Klan robes holding a noose around the neck of another white student wearing blackface. The photos are from the 1979 yearbook page for the Chi Phi fraternity of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Roy Cooper, the incumbent Governor of North Carolina, graduated that year with membership to a different fraternity, the Chi Psi. Later that day, The Daily Mail published a story with the misleading headline "Blackface lynch pics from Roy Cooper North Carolina yearbook", although it had clarified in the article that there is no evidence that Cooper was in any of the photos. The next day, Wohl tweeted "BREAKING: Racist picture of Democrat North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper emerges just days after he called on Ralph Northam to resign - Daily Mail", but did not include any link to Daily Mail articles. Wohl did not respond to an inquiry from Politifact. Politifact rated Wohl's tweet "Pants on Fire".[61]

Family and personal life[edit]

Wohl is Jewish,[62] describes himself as a Zionist, and has co-hosted a podcast for Jewish Trump supporters with Laura Loomer.[63] As of 2018, Wohl lived in Southern California.[27] His father, David Wohl, is an attorney and conservative commentator who has been a guest on Fox News programs and who has also promoted conspiracy theories.[3][19][64]

References[edit]

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