To the uber-rich venture capitalist Michael Goguen, it was apparently an enticing idea: a supposed former CIA agent named Matthew Marshall wanted to conduct an “off the books” paramilitary operation in Mexico. According to court papers, Marshall planned to lead assault teams on rescue missions and other expeditions. He just needed Goguen’s help to fund his plans.
To further bolster his credibility, Marshall allegedly also claimed that he had experience in “an elite Force Reconnaissance unit in the United States Marine Corps.” Goguen signed on, and in April 2013 he wired his new spy friend $400,000.
Marshall must have conveyed that the mission went ahead, because Goguen kept funneling him cash: $500,000 in October 2013, followed by three other payments totaling more than $1.4 million, the documents said.
But it was all a sham. There were no missions, and according to prosecutors, Marshall was not in the CIA, nor was he ever deployed or even “associated” with an elite Force Reconnaissance unit.
Instead, he took Goguen’s money and spent it on himself and on “loans and gifts to friends and family members.”
This week, Marshall admitted that he “knowingly devised” the scheme and pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Missoula, Montana, to wire fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion.
As the local paper The Flathead Beacon reported, Marshall stated in court on Wednesday that he was pleading guilty “in an effort to put this behind myself and my family.”
The paper also noted that, in truth, “Marshall received an ‘Other Than Honorable’ discharge from the Marine Corps Reserve in November 1999 after accumulating 82 absences from inactive duty training.”
In a statement, Marshall’s attorney said, “We’re grateful we were able to negotiate a favorable resolution to this complex case. Matt is looking forward to putting this behind him and focusing on his wonderful family.”
As part of the plea deal, prosecutors will dismiss eight other charges against him. He will also likely have to pay more than $2.3 million to Goguen and roughly $900,000 to the Internal Revenue Service. The exact amount of restitution he owes Goguen will be decided at his sentencing, which is scheduled for March 3.
The three counts he pleaded guilty to carry a combined possible jail sentence of 35 years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
The guilty plea is the latest milestone in a wild legal saga that has engulfed the Rocky Mountain hideaway.
Earlier this year, Marshall and three other plaintiffs filed a civil suit against Goguen and other defendants, alleging that the venture capitalist recruited them to build a private security contracting firm. Instead, the plaintiffs claimed, Goguen tried to use them as part of a “racketeering scheme to destroy anyone who sought to expose Goguen for his prolific sexual misconduct.”
They labeled the alleged misconduct the “Goguen Sexual Enterprise” and accused him of silencing his enemies and tampering with possible incriminating evidence.
Goguen’s attorney dismissed the allegations in a statement to NBC Montana, calling them “an obvious and ludicrously desperate attempt to undermine the U.S. Government's case against (Marshall).”
Goguen, who runs a venture capital firm called Two Bear Capital, previously spent 20 years at the legendary Silicon Valley investor Sequoia Capital. He made dozens of investments that grew to a combined market value north of $60 billion, according to his LinkedIn page.
He left Sequoia in 2016 after a woman filed a breach of contract suit against him containing disturbing allegations, which received widespread attention.
In the lawsuit, the woman, Amber Laurel Baptiste, alleged that Goguen “sexually, physically, and emotionally” abused her between 2001 and 2014.
According to Baptiste, Goguen promised her a $40 million settlement, but only came through with the first $10 million.
In a countersuit, Goguen said that he and Baptiste previously had a consensual relationship; he claimed that she concocted the allegations to extort him after he tried to break things off.
His lawyer told Vanity Fair that the lawsuit was a “vile collection of lies” and “an age-old story of a jilted lover looking for revenge.”
In the end, Goguen emerged vindicated. A judge ruled in 2019 that Baptiste was not credible and had failed to comply with court orders and the discovery process, which “significantly prejudiced Goguen’s ability to prepare for trial.” She was forced to return the $10 million payment as well.