The FBI is reportedly conducting a criminal investigation into a company accused by the federal government of scamming aspiring inventors while new acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker served on its advisory board.
The Wall Street Journal, citing an alleged victim who was contacted by the FBI and other people familiar with the investigation, reported on Friday that the probe was launched by the Miami office of the FBI and by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
The newspaper reports that the case remains active.
President TrumpDonald John TrumpEx-White House counsel interviewed Whitaker about joining Trump’s legal team: report Flake slams Trump for doubting Arizona vote count: No evidence of ‘electoral corruption’ Comey talked about sensitive FBI matters on personal email: report MORE announced on Wednesday that Whitaker would serve as the acting attorney general after Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsEx-White House counsel interviewed Whitaker about joining Trump’s legal team: report Flake: Whitaker shouldn’t oversee Mueller probe FBI investigating Florida company Trump’s acting AG was involved in: report MORE resigned at the president’s request. Whitaker had served as Sessions’s chief of staff since September 2017.
A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment to the Journal. The DOJ did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.
Whitaker will oversee the FBI in his new role, which would require him to avoid being involved in any matters related to the case, an ethics expert told the Journal.
The FBI’s investigation is related to the company World Patent Marketing, which was shut down in 2017 after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) accused it of operating “an invention-promotion scam” that tricked “thousands of consumers out of millions of dollars.”
It was ordered to pay a $26 million settlement in May after federal authorities said it duped aspiring inventors.
Court filings indicate that Whitaker received regular payments of $1,875 from the company while serving as a member of its advisory board.
It’s also been reported that Whitaker sent a threatening email to a former customer who had complained about the company in August 2015.
Whitaker has not been named as a defendant in the case against the company.
The Journal noted that the FTC’s action against the firm was a civil proceeding and that an FBI investigation indicates authorities may be looking into possible criminal charges.