AFPAC Co-Planner Led Crypto 'Solicitation Scheme'
Jozef Victor Nathan Gherman, the founder of a company whose clients lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency investments, appears also to play an integral part in organizing the finances of white nationalist Nick Fuentes’ America First non-profit, Hatewatch found.
From June 2017 to July 2018, the St. Petersburg, Florida, native Gherman, 27, used “materially misleading statements and omissions” to entice investors to buy into his cryptocurrency trading LLC named J Squared Invest, an order from the independent government agency Commodity Futures and Trading Commission (CFTC) found. According to CFTC, over 40 investors lost more than $300,000 they invested in his care. CFTC referred to Gherman’s cryptocurrency project as a “solicitation scheme” in a press release.
“[Gherman and J Squared] recklessly made false and misleading statements of material fact or omitted to state material facts which induced individuals to invest with J Squared, invest additional funds with J Squared, or continue to hold their investments with J Squared,” CFTC noted.
Gherman apparently went on to help launch Fuentes’ non-profit, America First Foundation, in 2020. Fuentes and his group registered the domain for the foundation using an IP address originating from Gherman’s hometown of St. Petersburg. An alias Hatewatch linked to Gherman actively promoted the foundation on social media and posted that he “set [the foundation] up” with Fuentes. A website also directed America First Political Action Committee (AFPAC) attendees to send payment for their tickets by mail to a P.O. box located in St. Petersburg that year.
Hatewatch first learned of Gherman after he created online fundraisers for a group aligned with America First’s leaders called Protect Americans. Gherman launched Protect Americans in May 2020, describing the effort in a Twitter bio as an “anti-lockdown,” “anti-riot,” and pro-police response to the racial justice activism and protest that gripped the country that year. Gherman operated this scheme under his own name. Nicholas Fuentes, “Mommy Groyper” Michelle Malkin and Jaden McNeil, founder of America First Students, promoted Gherman’s fundraiser. Each of these figures has played a leadership role in Fuentes’ America First movement.
On March 11, Hatewatch contacted Gherman by email and reached out to associates of his, including his father and Fuentes. Gherman appears to have responded by deleting several of his social media accounts, including his Instagram, and one of two accounts on the fringe social media site Gab. He also changed his profile picture and biography on Facebook, removing information about his whereabouts and social life. He set his YouTube account related to his fundraising group Protect Americans to private, limiting the amount of people who can see its content.
The following sums up the connections between Gherman and Fuentes’ America First movement, highlighting aliases he appears to have used in his work, such as “America First Jew,” “Assistant Groyper” and “James Miller.” Fuentes praised “America First Jew” and “Assistant Groyper” publicly and sometimes treated the person behind those pseudonyms as his literal assistant, bringing Gherman, with his checkered financial history, into the white nationalist’s inner circle.
Gherman operating under his own name
Gherman’s July 2020 internet-based fundraiser, which links him to Fuentes, McNeil and Malkin, sponsored a California couple that police arrested on hate crime and vandalism charges related to their alleged defacement of a Black Lives Matter mural in Martinez, a town in Contra Costa County, California. Malkin appeared on several video streams with Gherman to promote a fundraiser for the couple, and together they raised more than $20,000. The couple, Nicole Anderson and David Nelson, face trial for hate crimes and vandalism charges this year. (Police also subsequently charged both with burglary, and Nelson alone with selling methamphetamine, in February in unrelated incidents.)
Gherman launched a Twitter account branded “Protect Americans,” @ProtectAmer, in July 2020, which the site’s moderators suspended that October. He promoted the fundraiser for Nelson and Anderson through that account. The handle interacted with America First personalities, including Malkin. Web archives show that a Twitter user going by the handle @RickMcCargar sent a public-facing tweet referring to Gherman on July 10, 2020, to @ProtectAmer.
“Why does Jozef Gherman call himself Jozef Victor...? Who is ensuring this is not a scam?” @RickMcCargar wrote.
The Protect Americans account replied, saying that Gherman ran it.
“That’s me lol. Did you watch the stream? I put the fundraiser together,” @ProtectAmer posted.
Gherman previously carried out similar attention-grabbing stunts. He organized a protest of gym closures under the name “Open Tampa Bay” in May 2020, when hard-right activists first started to target COVID-19 safety measures. Between 20 and 30 Open Tampa Bay activists participated in the event. They carried signs reading #OpenTampaBay outside a government building in Pinellas County, Florida, and Gherman provided images and video of the protests to mainstream news outlets including Storyful and Reuters.
Linking Gherman to ‘America First Jew’
Gherman appears to have attended an event hosted by the youth-focused right-wing group Turning Point USA (TPUSA) at the University of Florida on Nov. 12, 2019, and joined other America First-linked activists in confronting its founder, Charlie Kirk. White nationalists associated with America First referred to confrontations like this as the “Groyper Wars,” where they followed Kirk’s speaking tour that fall, seeking to disrupt him and reshape the conversation around their own, more extreme talking points.
Gherman, performatively dressed in a Bernie Sanders T-shirt, a Bernie Sanders kippah and a distinctive necklace, waited to speak to Kirk in a line designated for liberals, video footage of the event shows. Gherman stated to Kirk, “I’m a proud American Jew,” before criticizing Kirk for being too friendly to “the LGBT agenda and the mass immigration.”
“Why should we trust you to be a leader in the conservative movement over someone who values America First, like Nicholas J. Fuentes?” he asked.
Hatewatch found multiple Facebook photos of Gherman and his family wherein he appears to wear the same necklace as the one he wore at the TPUSA event. A person who looks like Gherman, wearing the same distinctive necklace, also shows up in a video posted to Twitter in August 2020, talking about how he doesn’t want future white children to grow up as a minority group in the United States.
“Your kids are going to be growing up in a society where they will be minorities. And I just don’t like that,” Gherman says in the clip.
A Twitter user going by @AmericaFirstJew took credit for the TPUSA stunt apparently perpetrated by Gherman. The user stated that he lived locally and posted pictures of the Bernie Sanders-themed clothing Gherman wore at the event. He then justified his appearance by saying: “Please don’t celebrate that I’m Jewish. Minorities should not be put on pedestals. We need to earn our place in this country and prove ourselves worthy of being in the movement. Consider this my tribute.”
Created hours before the TPUSA stunt, on Nov. 11, 2019, the @AmericaFirstJew Twitter account had only two followers, and the person behind it used it to post the words “Rape @charliekirk11,” tagging Kirk’s Twitter handle for their first tweet. Less than one month after the TPUSA event, 2900 accounts followed @AmericaFirstJew. The account holder described his role in Fuentes’ movement as a “rabbi for the dissident right” in the account’s Twitter bio. He issued such commentary as: “Being a groyper is like being in the holocaust. And since I’m Jewish this will be my second time,” referring to the “groyper” slang word appropriated by Fuentes’ movement.
The @AmericaFirstJew account also corresponded directly with Fuentes on Twitter, hours after the appearance at the TPUSA event. Fuentes wrote, “You killed it, bro!,” and then @AmericaFirstJew responded with deference.
“For you and the movement, anything,” @AmericaFirstJew replied to Fuentes on Nov. 12, 2019. “You built this up with blood, sweat and tears. You have the two most important things on your side. God and the truth. You will win and we will all be the beneficiaries for it. Thank you, King!”
Twitter suspended @AmericaFirstJew in late November 2019. Someone going by the name “America First Jew” also created an account on the extremist-friendly messaging platform Telegram, where Michelle Malkin and others associated with Fuentes’ movement reposted their content. For example, in January 2020, Malkin shared a post on Telegram from America First Jew stating his plans to attend Fuentes’ inaugural AFPAC event in Virginia, near Washington, D.C. Malkin headlined the conference that year.
The owner of the now-deleted America First Jew Telegram account promoted Fuentes-led America First events throughout 2020. In July of that year, just days before Gherman launched the Protect Americans fundraiser promoted by Fuentes and Malkin, the America First Foundation filed paperwork to incorporate in Florida, where Gherman lives.
Linking @AmericaFirstJew to ‘James Miller’ and ‘Assistant Groyper’
Gherman’s America First Jew persona appears to be closely linked to other online aliases, like “Assistant Groyper” and also “James Miller.” White nationalists and other extremists typically operate under aliases to obscure their identities from the public, and avoid damaging their reputations, both online and in their local communities. Hatewatch believes Gherman operated online under several aliases, based upon a review of America First-related social media accounts and leaked data.
In January 2021, someone, or multiple people, going by the alias “James Miller” and using two St. Petersburg IP addresses, registered four America First-related internet domain names using a credit card belonging to Fuentes. Hatewatch found the purchases during a review of a trove of leaked data from Epik, a domain registration company popular with the extreme far right. Hatewatch found it unlikely that someone used virtual private network (VPN) software to appear to be stationed in St. Petersburg in these instances. The same broadband internet provider registered both IP addresses. The repetition of the internet provider on multiple days suggests that someone physically present in St. Petersburg at that time registered the domains.
The “James Miller” persona is connected to other people from Fuentes’ America First orbit on social media. For example, a “James Miller” is “friends” on the online gaming platform Steam with a man named Simon Dickerman. Hatewatch outlined Dickerman’s relationship to America First in a November 2021 story. Dickerman showed up at a Fuentes-led “Vax Watch” event that same month in New York City, serving as the group’s cameraman, and appeared in a February 2022 BBC documentary about white nationalists. “James Miller” also operates an account on the messaging app Keybase, where he is mutual followers with Michael Zimmermann, an extremist Hatewatch linked to America First in the same November 2021 story.
In December 2021, a person who operates an account on the fringe social media website Gab, going by the name “Assistant Groyper,” suggested that he and “James Miller” are the same person.
“James Miller’s first day at his new job,” Assistant Groyper wrote, referring to a name badge.
‘St. Pete Ghoul’
Assistant Groyper appears to have collaborated closely with Fuentes, based on social media posts and video footage reviewed by Hatewatch. During the second AFPAC conference, a bystander took video footage showing a masked man who resembles Gherman climbing into the back seat of a convertible Mustang. Nick Fuentes drove the car. Matt “Beardson Beardly” Evans and Jaden McNeil entered it as passengers. The mask on the Gherman lookalike’s face features a character mouth from the Japanese manga series “Tokyo Ghoul.” An avid anime and manga fan, Gherman set his name on his Facebook page to “St. Pete Ghoul,” perhaps referring to the city of St. Petersburg and the similarly named series.
Assistant Groyper later posted a video to AFPAC’s Telegram channel of the same car ride. Assistant Groyper shot the video from the vantage point of the mask-wearing man, as the four of them drove around St. Petersburg. Beyond the bystander footage implicating Gherman, Hatewatch also found a connection through his political donations.
Assistant Groyper operates multiple accounts branded with that alias on extremist-friendly platforms like Gab and Telegram. On March 5, 2021, he used those platforms to ask for donations on the platform WinRed in honor of U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar. Critics targeted Gosar, an extreme, hard-right congressman from Arizona, over his participation in Fuentes’ St. Petersburg AFPAC event one week prior.
“Gosar took a tremendous step to help America First by speaking at AFPAC ... Now he needs all of our help, please make a donation ... I just donated,” Assistant Groyper posted to Gab.
Federal Election Commission records indicate that on March 5, 2021, Jozef Gherman donated $50 to WinRed, the same Republican fundraising platform.
Fans of Fuentes have also claimed publicly that the same person inhabited the America First Jew and Assistant Groyper personas.
“The rebrand from [America First] J*w to Assistant Groyper was carefully orchestrated,” a person with the Twitter handle @imthatsquigga wrote in February 2021.
After Hatewatch reached out to Gherman, he appears to have deleted a Gab account that Assistant Groyper referenced in their bio on that site as being interrelated. The deleted account often posted content about cryptocurrency schemes and non-fungible tokens, or NFTs. He also set the Assistant Groyper Gab account to private and removed its biographical information.
‘I’ve made millions and lost it all’
Like Gherman, Assistant Groyper also claims to have lost millions of dollars in cryptocurrency schemes in 2018. Writing on Twitter, another handle operated by Assistant Groyper bragged: “All u [n-word] keep saying shit. Yeah I had $5 mill in 2018, probably worth 30+ mill easily today and lost it all. Spare me.”
An Assistant Groyper-branded Gab account wrote: “People don’t realize I’ve met with the most powerful people in politics, and crypto before. I’ve made millions and lost it all.”
Assistant Groyper posted about cryptocurrency as recently as last month.
“You must learn about crypto and privacy ... knowledge of VPN’s and tornado cash go a long way for supplemental info…. I’m telling you this so you know how to obtain digital assets that cannot be seized by any government or any individual,” they published to Gab on Feb. 23, 2022.
Tornado Cash is a so-called “mixing service” used to obscure the source and destination of cryptocurrency funds. Extremists and criminals sometimes use these services to make their finances difficult to trace.
Assistant Groyper also discussed his experience with Opensea, a trading marketplace for NFTs, like the cartoons made popular by Bored Ape Yacht Club.
“My opensea bid hit. And I’m step closer to being richer than @zoomerdev,” naming another member of the America First team. He subsequently advertised on Gab for an illustrator of his own, writing: “Looking for a digital illustrator/artist, good with cartoonish characters. Compensation guaranteed, [direct message] for more details.”
Fuentes himself promotes cryptocurrency, and trades in at least Bitcoin and Litecoin. He runs a program called BitPay on his sites, which autogenerates new addresses during every transaction, creating obstacles for researchers and investigators. French computer programmer Laurent Bachelier also donated 13.5 Bitcoin to Fuentes in December 2020, along with smaller amounts to other prominent white nationalist figures. At the time Bachelier donated the money, 13.5 Bitcoin amounted to roughly $400,000. The U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack, who subpoenaed Fuentes as part of their investigation into the attack, mentioned in a January press release that the FBI had scrutinized his finances.
A spokesperson for CFTC, the government agency that issued an order about J Squared Invest, did not provide details to Hatewatch about whether Gherman reimbursed his investors or the state.
Photo illustration of Jozef Gherman by SPLC