Jacob Wohl, a former hedge fund manager turned pro-Trump conspiracy peddler, was a small-time but persistent figure on the far-right for the past two years. Then came the revelation of his apparent involvement as a central character in a bizarre plot to smear special counsel Robert Mueller. Now the FBI has been asked to investigate the alleged scheme, and Wohl may achieve the notoriety he’s been chasing for years.
The details of that plot to discredit Mueller were revealed on Tuesday, when journalists reported receiving suspicious emails from a woman claiming she had been offered money to fabricate accusations of sexual misconduct against the special prosecutor investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. NBC News traced a document outlining the Mueller allegations to a company whose website and telephone were registered to Wohl and his family.
Wohl, a self-described “Trumpenomics expert,” was perhaps best known on the internet for his dispatches from “hipster coffee shops” where Democrats supposedly secretly disclosed their love for the president. But as a writer on conspiracy sites, with 178,000 Twitter followers along for the ride, Wohl also earned a place among President Donald Trump’s most ardent and trolly online defenders. He was the first to tease that allegations were coming against Mueller, tweeting early Tuesday: “Several media sources tell me that a scandalous story about Mueller is breaking tomorrow. Should be interesting. Stay tuned!"
Those allegations, called “very credible,” by Wohl, were dropped hours later in a dossier on Gateway Pundit, a far-right, often inaccurate website for which Wohl writes. That dossier seems to have been written by Surefire Intelligence — the company tagline for the self-described “private intel agency” appears on the header of each page, and at least one woman has come forward with an email signed by an agent of Surefire, asking her for allegations against Mueller in exchange for money.
Wohl denied any connection to Surefire Intelligence, telling NBC News: “I don't have any involvement in any investigations of any kind. I'm not quite that cool.” But Surefire Intelligence is linked to Wohl in numerous ways, including domain records and a company phone that redirects to a number registered to Wohl’s mother.
After news hit of Wohl’s apparent connection to Surefire, Gateway Pundit pulled the dossier and replaced the text with a statement that founder Jim Hoft would be investigating both the dossier and Wohl’s involvement.
Wohl posted that he’s appearing at a press conference Thursday at a Holiday Inn in Washington, where conspiracy theorists have pledged to reveal Mueller’s supposed victims.
FINANCIAL SCHEMES AND BIKINI MODELS
Wohl, 20, has a history of schemes. He was once billed as a teenage financial guru, but his penchant for lying — about his success and credentials — cut his investment career short and attracted investigations by government and industry regulators.
Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.
Wohl got his first taste of fame at 17, in a local news profile of his hedge fund. Calling him the “Wohl of Wall Street,” the spot gave Wohl publicity for Wohl Capital, a fund that he claimed had grown to 20 investors — students, parents, grandparents and teachers — and offered returns of over 22 percent.
By 2016, Wohl had shut down the hedge fund, and instead of college, he was running two new projects from Los Angeles. One was Montgomery Assets, which Wohl claimed invested in equity, fixed income and commodity markets, and started with “seed money from a Chinese family office.” The other was NeX Capital Management, a commodity trading adviser.
Wohl ran his businesses in an unorthodox way, attracting clients in part with bikini models he had found on Craigslist and Backpage. An ex-employee described the practice to an investor news website and it was documented in real time with screenshots posted by Twitter users who made it a hobby to follow Wohl’s activities.
“We need models for promo modeling events including conferences, trade shows, seminars, etc.,” read one Orange County, California, Craigslist ad viewed by NBC News. “We also have other modeling opportunities including bikini modeling and fashion modeling if you fit the type for that sort of modeling.”
Wohl blamed the posts on “trolls of mine in 2016,” whom he “immediately reported” to the FBI, he told The Daily Beast.
In August 2016, Wohl announced that Montgomery Assets was “acquiring” Hollywood talent manager Trousdale Consultants, a company with no footprint, no website and no record with California’s business registry, until Wohl’s announcement. Following the partnership, Wohl used the new arm of his company to place Los Angeles Craigslist ads for “Instagram models” and “college hotties.”
While Wohl was posting YouTube videos and writing press releases alleging great success, his clients were complaining to regulators. In one allegation, which prompted an investigation by the National Futures Association, an organization that self-regulates the futures industry, a client claimed that Wohl told him his $75,000 investment had grown, but only provided $44,000 when he asked to cash out of the fund. Wohl claimed the fund had lost money, but examiners noted in their report that the account overall had made a profit, which was then moved to another fund, established in the name of Wohl’s mother.
According to their report, Wohl evaded investigators and hid from them when they knocked on his door. Wohl’s father, David Wohl, an attorney and a recurring guest on Fox News programs, threatened to have the regulators charged with harassment. The association did, however, find Wohl to be “unbalanced” in his presentation of profit risks to clients and said he had misled investors by claiming to have been trading since he was 9 years old. In 2017, the National Futures Association banned Wohl for life.
That same year, an investigation by the Arizona Corporation Commission concluded that Wohl had defrauded investors. He was ordered to cease and desist in the violation of securities laws, and pay about $38,000 in restitution and fines, according to commission documents obtained by NBC News. As part of the settlement, he neither admitted nor denied the findings. In 2017, Wohl’s lawyer told the commission that the first payment of $16,000 would not be made on time. “Ultimately, we do not have the funds,” Wohl’s lawyer said. In January, Wohl’s case was referred to the state’s attorney general for collections, according to commission documents. In March, Arizona Superior Court entered a judgement against Wohl for nonpayment.
SPREADING CONSPIRACY THEORIES
Wohl’s history with financial regulators and unhappy clients might have hurt someone else’s career prospects. But in a post-fact era, Wohl’s support of Trump, coupled with his devotion to conspiracies and tireless self-promotion on social media, has fueled his rise in online far-right circles.
In February 2016, Wohl appeared on Dr. Drew’s HLN show as a Trump fan and critic of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. By September, he was shaking hands with then-candidate Trump.
When Trump was elected, Wohl directed all of his focus on politics. Trump, Wohl says, is “the greatest president of all time,” and his greatest accomplishment, according to Wohl, is “blowing up the cancer known as political correctness.”
Wohl is often one of the first and most flattering to reply to Trump’s tweets. In the summer of 2017, Trump retweeted Wohl twice.
In February, Wohl launched The Washington Reporter, a conservative news website and home for his new political podcast, which he called “Offended America.” Wohl copied word for word the code of ethics for his new site from the watchdog journalism outlet Propublica, and early stories on the site included “Hillary Clinton Is Still Paying Private Spies to Dig Up Dirt on Trump,” and “As Mueller’s Witch-Hunt Continues, Links to Soros Emerge.”
Domain records show the site used to belong to Malia Zimmerman, the Fox News reporter sued this year by the parents of Seth Rich, the Democratic aide whose murder was seized on by conspiracy theorists, including Wohl. (The case was dismissed.)
Wohl has adopted and amplified nearly every prominent conspiracy theory to arise in the last year. He has claimed that Stormy Daniels cheated a polygraph examination, billionaire George Soros paid marchers to protest and recent mail bombs sent to prominent Democrats were “false flags” meant to swing the midterms.
In June, Wohl began writing for The Gateway Pundit. By August, Wohl’s website was down and he had stopped releasing new episodes of his podcast.
Now, faced with allegations that he created a fake intelligence company to fabricate harassment accusations against Mueller, Wohl seems to be digging in with a new conspiracy theory, invented just for him.
“Someone inside Mueller’s office likely sent out the hoax email claiming to be a woman offered payment to make an accusation against Mueller!” Wohl tweeted Wednesday. “They know that Mueller’s real victims are coming forward! Tick tock…”