The Shocking Secret Past of One of QAnon’s Most Toxic Stars
QAnon conspiracy theorist Tommy Gelati loves to talk. Just not about this.
Trash-talking QAnon conspiracy theorist Tommy Gelati has a long list of celebrities he thinks belong in prison—or who might secretly be there already.
Using a verified Twitter account with more than 230,000 followers and a hugely popular podcast, Gelati, who goes by the alias “Tommy G” online, has whipped up QAnon conspiracy theory mobs against celebrities like Chrissy Teigen and companies like online furniture store Wayfair. He promises that prominent figures in the Democratic Party and Hollywood will soon be arrested in a wave of that mass detention QAnon believers call “The Storm.”
He’s claimed that top celebrities torture children for “adrenochrome,” a substance conspiracy theorists believe contains magical life-giving powers. After Tom Hanks contracted the coronavirus, Gelati began speculating that Hanks’s recent haircut proved that he was secretly hosting Saturday Night Live from prison.
But what’s less clear to his audience is that Gelati himself served nearly two years in a federal prison after engineering a sensational bank robbery with a crew dubbed the “College Boy Robbers.” Now, his online rise highlights how anyone can reinvent themselves and find success in an era where conspiracy theories run rampant.
Gelati didn’t respond to requests for comment. But in a Twitter video posted after this article was published, he acknowledged his bank robbery conviction and vowed to “shut down” The Daily Beast.
On Twitter and his podcast, “No Mercy,” Gelati has declared his belief in QAnon. QAnon believers hold that a series of anonymous clues by a figure called “Q” are actually secret signals from within the Trump administration, revealing that the world is controlled by a cabal of pedophile-cannibals in the Democratic Party and Hollywood. The FBI considers QAnon a potential source of domestic terrorism, and it’s inspired murders, child abduction plots, and a terrorist incident, among other crimes.
In viral Twitter threads, Gelati tells his QAnon fans how Donald Trump will soon redeem the country in a purge of his foes—and whips them into frenzies over specific celebrities.
“His style is a lot more aggressive and insulting than a lot of the other Q gurus,” Mike Rothschild, a journalist who tracks the QAnon movement, told The Daily Beast. “He seems like the really agro guy yelling at the TV in a bar, except thousands of people share it immediately.”
Gelati was one of the first major promoters of the Wayfair conspiracy theory, which focused on high-priced furniture available on Wayfair to suggest that the site was being used to traffic children. Wayfair denied the allegation, but that didn’t stop just one of Gelati’s tweets about the company from racking up more than 27,000 retweets and more than 1.4 million views on Twitter.
Gelati often unearths joke tweets made in questionable taste or fixating on years-old comedy bits. He’s accused comedian Will Ferrell of being a Satanist, based on a Saturday Night Live skit, and alleged that comedian Tim Heidecker is somehow involved in child trafficking.
“When I challenged him after he insinuated I had something to do with pedophilia or child trafficking (which I flatly deny), his followers really piled on,” Heidecker told The Daily Beast.
In the wake of the Wayfair conspiracy theory and the attacks on Teigen and other celebrities, Twitter announced a crackdown on QAnon promoters and the deletion of around 7,000 QAnon accounts. A Twitter spokesperson told The Daily Beast the purge wasn’t driven by any one event.
Sixteen years ago, Tommy Gelati went instead as Thomas Galati, a 24-year-old recent Villanova University graduate from Paramus, New Jersey, with mounting gambling debts.
In January 2004, Galati was working as a service representative at a Bank of New York branch in Bergen County, New Jersey. But Galati owed a large amount of money to his gambling creditors, prompting them to beat him up so badly that he was hospitalized.
“They started threatening my family,” Galati later recalled in a courtroom, according to New Jersey’s The Record newspaper. “They said they were going to kill my mom and I didn’t know what else I could do, so I did the wrong thing.”
Galati, bank teller Rajeev Sidhana and friend Micron Sanchez Rodriguez hatched a plan to get enough money to pay off Galati’s debts, by staging a robbery. Rodriguez would play the bank robber, while Galati and Sidhana would hand him the money while pretending to be the victims.
Galati wrote out the robbery note himself.
“React in any way, and I’ll kill you and your mother,” the note read. “I know where you live… You take my bag and get me all the $ from behind the counter and the vault ASAP… I worked at banks before, so I know there’s at least 10 to 15K in each register.”
On Jan. 2, Rodriguez entered the bank, approached Galati, and handed over the note. Galati handed the bank’s money over to Rodriguez, who took Sidhana as a fake “hostage” as he made his getaway.
The robbery netted the trio a whopping $202,000, which one FBI agent investigating the case described at the time as an unusually high sum for a bank robbery. But the scheme quickly fell apart, with detectives intrigued by the bizarre note and the huge haul questioning Galati and Sidhana, who cracked after a few days of interrogation.
Dubbed the “College Boy Robbers,” their case became a local sensation. Galati pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months on a conspiracy to commit bank robbery charge.
“I was president of my class, captain of my baseball team and now I’m a bank robber. I lost everything,” a weeping Galati told the judge, according to an account of the sentencing in The Record. “I kind of wish I had a rewind button just to go back and take care of all of this.”
The name Gelati uses now is spelled slightly differently from the last name used in court records for Thomas Galati. But there are plenty of items demonstrating that Gelati the QAnon conspiracy theorist is the same person as Galati the bank robber. It’s not clear if he has legally changed his name.
Galati is described in news reports about the crime as a Paramus, N.J., resident who attended Villanova University. Gelati has tweeted that he also attended Villanova. Meanwhile, corporate registration documents filed in California for one of Gelati’s businesses, “DFS Elite,” list his address as a house on Reeder Road in Paramus owned by a woman with the last name “Galati.”
In a 2018 tweet, sportscaster Spero Dedes—whom Thomas Gelati, under his handle @TommyG, had referred to as a friend—described himself and the fantasy team guru-turned-conspiracy theorist as “Reeder Road Superstars.” Gelati promptly liked the post.
Meanwhile, the 1995 Paramus High School yearbook shows Dedes and Thomas Galati, who looks very similar to Thomas Gelati, both posing in a photo of the football team.
Gelati is described in a 2015 USA Today article as a “New Jersey native.” A search on the directory Spokeo returns only three results for a “Thomas Galati” or a “Tom Galati” with connections to New Jersey, two of whose ages wouldn’t match the Galati described in the court record and newspaper accounts, while Gelati’s age does. There were no results for “Thomas Gelati” or “Tom Gelati.”
In 2012, Gelati replied to a tweet sent to Twitter account @TGalati, suggesting that was his earlier Twitter user name. The URL for Gelati’s Facebook page includes the phrase “tgalati,” suggesting he used that spelling of his last name in the past. Gelati’s name is also spelled as “Galati,” next to his picture on a website mentioning his work for internet trading school Online Trading Academy.
In court records, Galati complained that his absent father had left his family in “tremendous debt.” Gelati, meanwhile, tweeted on June 15 that his father had taken out hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans using family members’ names and claimed that he had been “arrested” in an attempt to pay off his father’s debts.
Galati served his time in federal prison at Fort Dix, where he claimed in court papers to have been given a concussion after getting beaten up by a trio of fellow inmates. When he emerged from prison in April 2006, Galati was ordered to add himself to the Self-Exclusion List at New Jersey casinos and racetracks, meaning that he would be banned from gambling—an issue that came before the court again after Galati gambled $500 in an Atlantic City casino. Galati was sentenced to an additional three months in prison in January 2007 for a probation violation.
Within a few years of his release, however, he became prominent as a high-stakes player in the world of fantasy sports. Gelati, as he was then known, soon became a prominent player and media personality in daily fantasy sports, a variation on fantasy sports popularized by websites like DraftKings and FanDuel. Gelati styled himself as the hard-partying “cool kid at the nerd table.”
In 2017, Gelati landed at Barstool Sports, a sports media outlet where he co-hosted a fantasy sports podcast with actor Michael Rapaport. But Gelati soon ran afoul of one of his Barstool coworkers after the man, spotting Gelati wearing a backwards baseball cap at a Yankees game and dubbed him “Prison Mike”—a reference to a faux-tough bit Steve Carell played on The Office. Gelati exploded in direct messages to his coworker. Rapaport was fired from Barstool a few months later, and Gelati’s Barstool podcast was no more.
But Gelati has found a new kind of podcast fame as a QAnon conspiracy theorist. In August 2019, he retooled his personal sports podcast, “No Mercy,” and pivoted it into a hub for QAnon and other conspiracy theories.
With episode titles like “TOM HANKS IS A PEDO!” and “OPRAH, ELLEN, MADONNA PEDOPHILES?”, the “No Mercy” podcast has become the fifth most popular podcast in the sports category on the iTunes charts, even though it’s not really about sports anymore. It just ranks ahead of podcasts from sports heavyweights like Colin Cowherd, J.J. Redick, and Skip Bayless, as well as The Ringer’s NBA podcast. And it features a number of conservative athletes, including QAnon-friendly former baseball pitcher Curt Schilling and former baseball player Aubrey Huff.
Gelati’s former Barstool coworkers appear to have watched his pandemic-era rise to conspiracy theory infamy with bemusement.
“Without sports, Tommy G, he might just uncover every plot in America,” Barstool personality Dan “Big Cat” Katz said in a Barstool video that discussed one of Gelati’s conspiracy theories.
Baselessly accusing celebrities and Wayfair of pedophilia or human trafficking has also been good for Gelati’s online persona. Between July 11 and July 13, the height of attention for Gelati’s Wayfair accusations, Gelati gained more than 38,000 new Twitter followers, according to social media analytics website SocialBlade.
Gelati has been successful at becoming a QAnon promoter because he’s able to package QAnon claims coherently and tweet them with a verified Twitter account, according to Travis View, a podcaster who follows QAnon developments.
“What’s interesting about Tommy G is that nothing about his schtick is novel,” View said. “You could find 10 QAnon influencers just like him. He just does it with complete sentences and a blue checkmark.”
Gelati shows no signs of stopping, suggesting that more people in the future will be baselessly accused of pedophilia or eating children by the former bank robber turned conspiracy theory star.
“I would be surprised if Tommy believes any of the crap he’s peddling, but I do worry he may influence someone impressionable and unstable to do something dangerous,” Heidecker said.