Most readers know the core story here: the LaPierres and Ackerman McQueen had a plan to give the LaPierres a $6 million Dallas mansion, using NRA money. It was probably meant as a retirement home (how was Wayne LaPierre going to be running the NRA, headquarters in Fairfax, VA, from Dallas, TX? That’s one long commute each morning!)
The plan was that Ackerman would set up an LLC, “WBB Investments, LLC.” An LLC is sort of a simplified corporation. WBB was formed in Delaware, because the laws of that state let you create an LLC without any public record of its real creators or owners. The public record only shows the name of the Delaware company you hired to create it. No one, including the board, would ever know that that Ackerman created it, NRA funded it, and the LaPierres were enjoying the house.
Why create “WBB Investments, LLC”? Note the word “Investments.” It was going to be hidden on the NRA books, and on its IRS Form 990s, as an NRA investment. The board would never know, and the members would never know. In fact, on the NRA 990 for 2018, after the plan was abandoned, WBB investments is listed as an NRA investment. (Schedule R, p. 2). The explanation is “WBB Investments, LLC, was formed in connection with a possible transaction that was never ultimately executed.”
The whole scheme involved massive violations of the federal laws against wire and mail fraud. The Dep’t of Justice handbook on the subject says “”There are two elements in mail fraud: (1) having devised or intending to devise a scheme to defraud (or to perform specified fraudulent acts), and (2) use of the mail for the purpose of executing, or attempting to execute, the scheme (or specified fraudulent acts).” Notice that it’s not necessary for the scheme to have been carried out, just that there was a scheme and someone used the mail to help it along. More here: “As a general rule, the crime is done when the scheme is hatched and an attendant mailing or interstate phone call or email has occurred. Thus, the statutes are said to condemn a scheme to defraud regardless of its success.” Since the Wall Street Journal obtained an image of a $70,000 NRA check mailed to WBB Investments as earnest money for the mansion, the case should be easy to make.
The penalties are up to 30 years imprisonment and a million dollar fine. Everyone who touched the offense — the LaPierres, Ackerman, the NRA personnel who worked out the deal and signed the check — are on hook for some serious consequences. If ever a postal inspector, other LEO, or the US Attorney for Virginia or Oklahoma or Texas alerts, everything will hit the fan.
We just realized that we weren’t the first to see this. A podcast, Gangster Capitalism, had a program about it. Here’s some of the transcript:
Rather than come up with the money for this themselves, what we see is a transaction that seems to be structured so that no money comes from them and the whole thing is hidden. It works like this, money is taken from the NRA. Now the NRA is a nonprofit organization. Its money comes primarily from the members. Money from the NRA is taken in the form of a check and paid to a limited liability company, an LLC, that is set up for this purpose. The money goes to the LLC, $70,000. That LLC has an address according to the NRA’s own documents that connects it with Ackerman McQueen, the NRA’s longtime advertising agency and partner in many, many ventures.
The NRA in partnership with Ackerman McQueen established an LLC, which was 99% owned by the NRA and 1% owned by Ack-Mac. In May of 2018, Woody Phillips, the CFO of the NRA, who if you remember from episode two embezzled more than $1 million from his former employer, signed a check to this LLC for $70,000 of NRA money. And the address listed on the check turned out to be a home owned by Ackerman McQueen’s chief financial officer.
If the house had been purchased, nobody would’ve been able to see that it was owned by the LaPierres because the money was coming from elsewhere, or [know] who had paid for it.
The NRA maintains that Wayne LaPierre is a public person who had security concerns. That’s why they didn’t want the buyer of the house to be public. That seems reasonable. But still the money wasn’t coming from Wayne, it was coming from the NRA.
Then the question becomes, what about the way the transaction was disguised? Because if there had been reasons that Mr. and Mrs. LaPierre wanted to keep their name off the title, they could have created their own LLC, but they didn’t do that. This was done by the NRA in cooperation it seems with Ackerman McQueen, and the money was funneled through that way.
The taking of funds from places not supposed to be drawn from and giving it for the benefit of somebody not entitled to those funds would be a type of fraud, wire fraud. If Wayne and Susan LaPierre were involved in arranging this transaction, they could be part of any scheme to defraud. They would be responsible for that if they had any role in putting that plan together, that’s what the statute requires. Anybody involved in putting that scheme together could be charged. It might be Mr. LaPierre, but it could be anybody involved in constructing the scheme. The potential penalty for wire fraud is a fine of not more than a million dollars and a person can also go to prison for up to 30 years, or both. If I were Wayne LaPierre, I’d be thinking about this a lot. I’d want to retain counsel and I’d want to know just how deep my exposure might be.
Andrew Jenks: The Dallas mansion has become one of the biggest threats to both the NRA and Ackerman McQueen. And immediately after the story broke in the Wall Street Journal, both sides began distancing themselves. Ackerman says it was them that pulled the plug on the deal when they found out what Wayne and the NRA were up to, specifically when they learned that Wayne wanted to join the golf club [meaning his name would be revealed on the club membership roster]. It didn’t seem like a security issue at that point. As for the NRA side, their new Dallas based attorney, Bill Brewer put their narrative into the press. He said, “The deal was vetoed by the NRA after its full terms, including Ackerman’s intent to spend NRA money became known to Wayne LaPierre.” In the last two years, Bill Brewer has become the high profile and very well-paid mouthpiece of the NRA.”
Two bands of crooks, each blaming the other. (Or, if we add in the Brewer firm, three). But there is no way for the first two to escape the criminal liability, for a $6 million mail fraud scheme against a nonprofit’s members.
All it will take is one agent or one prosecutor willing to take charge. It can be in Texas, Oklahoma, or Virginia.