The Federal Bureau of Investigation is conducting a criminal probe into a Florida company that allegedly scammed customers out of $26 million while Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker served as a paid advisory-board member, The Wall Street Journal reports. The investigation into World Patent Marketing is reportedly being handled by the FBI’s Miami office and U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the agency started contacting alleged fraud victims as “early as June 2017.” The World Patent was reportedly shut down last year after the Federal Trade Commission accused it of “scamming customers out of $26 million.” The company allegedly charged customers “thousands of dollars to patent and promote their inventions,” while providing “almost no real services” and threatening people who complained.
The FTC settled the case with the company earlier this year, but an FBI probe reportedly suggests authorities are looking into “potential criminal charges.” According to the Journal, Whitaker was paid $9,375 to serve as an advisory-board member at World Patent. He reportedly appeared in at least two promotional videos for the company, and wrote a 2015 email to an unhappy customer, threatening them with “serious civil and criminal consequences,” documents show. The Justice Department and the FBI declined to comment to the newspaper. Matthew Whitaker was named acting AG by President Trump after Jeff Sessions was fired earlier this week.