Michael Polignano, a co-founder of white nationalist publisher Counter-Currents, faces felony charges related to his alleged theft of nearly $35,000 from his ailing mother, according to Maryland court records.
Polignano is a veteran member of the white power movement, and Counter-Currents has played a leading role in spreading white nationalist thought between North America and Europe. While Counter-Currents is a significant publisher of racist books and essays, leaked conversations suggest his role there has not provided social or financial stability. The court documents from Frederick, Maryland, show Polignano could face years in prison.
Frederick County assistant public defender Rachel Reyes is defending Polignano in the case. The public defender’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Four 'false' checks
Prosecutors allege that Polignano, 43, wrote a series of false checks in October 2019, which he made out to himself from his mother’s account. Polignano, who listed his most recent place of residence as Budapest, Hungary, appeared first in the District Court for Frederick County in August, according to court documents.
Frederick County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) Detective Stephani Bird alleged on March 15, 2020, that Polignano wrote four false checks between Oct. 9 and Oct. 28, 2019. These checks amounted to $34,579.87. Bird made the allegations on an Application for Statement of Charges filed in the Frederick County District Court.
Cases in Maryland’s court system start at the district level and move to circuit courts. The application is the first step in pressing charges against someone in Maryland.
On Oct. 13, 2019, “Ellen Polignano, reported that her son, Michael Polignano, had been stealing money from her,” Bird wrote on the application. “Ellen advised that Michael had come to live with her temporarily approximately a year ago to help take care of her. She stated that Michael did not leave when she no longer needed daily care,” Bird continued.
Ellen Polignano, 80, did not respond to a request for comment.
One of Polignano’s public social media comments supports Bird’s narrative. Polignano claimed he “left Budapest for DC to help my aging mother” in a public comment on a June 2018 Facebook post.
Bird wrote she believed Polignano was in Budapest, Hungary, at the time of the application and requested a warrant for his arrest.
Social media suggests Polignano was in Hungary around that time. Polignano shared multiple photos from the northern Hungarian town of Eger in a public Facebook post dated March 23, 2020.
It is not clear under what circumstances Polignano returned to the United States for his trial. Court officials unsuccessfully attempted to serve Polignano two summons in 2020 and four warrants in 2022 for failure to appear. FCSO and the Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office declined to comment, citing an ongoing case.
Court officials successfully served the warrant on Aug. 22.
On Sept. 18, prosecutors filed 13 charges against Polignano in Frederick’s Circuit Court. These include forgery of a false document, theft, forgery of private documents, and one charge of a theft scheme between $25,000 to under $100,000. The theft scheme charge allows the state to bundle and make felonies of the separate allegedly forged checks. These felony charges carry maximum penalties between five and 10 years in prison and fines of between $1,500 and $15,000.
On his initial appearance questionnaire, which he signed on Aug. 22, Polignano listed an address in Budapest as his primary residence. He named Counter-Currents Publishing as his most recent employer and listed someone named “Greg” as his roommate.
Antifascist researchers and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Hungarian-language outlet recently identified Greg Johnson, another co-founder of Counter-Currents, as living in Budapest.
Polignano also listed his most expensive recurring expense as a $50 phone bill.
Longtime white nationalist
Polignano’s career in the white power movement dates back to the early 2000s. In 2010, Polignano launched Counter-Currents alongside Greg Johnson, who holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and is a self-proclaimed white nationalist. Counter-Currents publishes pseudoscientific and reactionary philosophical books and articles to denigrate people of color and religious and sexual minorities, including Black, Jewish and trans people. The outfit has served as a bridge between the European and U.S. far-right, translating much of its English-language material into various European languages.
Polignano first filed paperwork with California’s secretary of state to launch Counter-Currents Publishing in April 2010. The next year, Polignano registered the Counter-Currents Foundation, a nonprofit, using the same mailing address.
Since Counter-Currents’ founding, Johnson has promoted the work of various historical fascist and far-right authors. These include neo-Nazi William Luther Pierce, leader of the genocidal National Alliance. Pierce’s 1978 book, The Turner Diaries, which tells the story of a white power revolution in which non-white people are killed en masse, has influenced some of the most infamous acts of U.S. white nationalist mass violence and murder, including the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
In remarks at a 2004 white supremacist conference organized by former Klan leader David Duke, Polignano spoke about his relationship with Pierce. Polignano said he met Pierce twice at the Alliance’s then-headquarters in Hillsboro, West Virginia, describing the infamous neo-Nazi leader as “a warm, jovial, laid-back, fatherly fellow.” A version of Polignano’s speech that a neo-Nazi publication shared online after the conference includes a photo of a young Polignano standing alongside Pierce and one of the neo-Nazi leader’s cats.
Polignano remained active in the movement throughout the late 2000s. In 2007 and 2008, Polignano published two articles in The Occidental Quarterly, a white nationalist journal published by the secretive Charles Martel Society (CMS). Greg Johnson was then CMS’s editor. After Johnson left the journal in spring 2010 over a personal dispute with CMS president Sam Dickson, he teamed up with Polignano to launch Counter-Currents.
Counter-Currents’ website described Polignano as the managing editor and webmaster between 2010 and 2012, and again as webzine editor from 2017 to 2019, archives show.
Polignano appears to have briefly distanced himself from Johnson and Counter-Currents in 2013, according to social media posts and an email that Evan McLaren, the former executive director of the now-defunct National Policy Institute, shared with Hatewatch. McLaren has publicly disavowed white nationalism.
In an August 2013 email sent to undisclosed recipients, Johnson announced that Polignano had departed the publication due to illness. Johnson claimed he would pay Polignano “$10,000 in severance.” Johnson also used the email to fundraise.
Johnson did not respond to Hatewatch’s request for comment.
Hatewatch was also unable to verify the circumstances surrounding Polignano’s purported departure. Polignano has continued to collaborate with Counter-Currents and involve himself in a variety of white nationalist projects.
In December 2013 and July 2015, Polignano filed statements of information – a document that California requires all corporate entities operating within the state to file biannually – wherein he listed his title as “executive director.” Polignano is also listed as the principal officer on Counter-Currents Foundation’s tax records for 2015, 2017 and 2018.
In June 2017, Polignano shared a photo of the Counter-Currents Foundation’s incorporation paperwork on Facebook with the caption: “Counter-Currents just turned seven!” He described himself as a point of contact for prospective donors.
Around that time, Polignano revealed strains in his relations with Johnson in a series of Facebook messages with Daniel Friberg, co-founder of the white nationalist publisher Arktos, and Polignano.
Polignano said in the messages that he met Johnson in the early 2000s. They subsequently became close friends, Polignano said.
But their relationship soured. “Long story short, after putting all my financial eggs onboard Counter-Currents, Greg and I fought more and more with each other,” Polignano told Friberg.
Polignano also characterized his 2013 break with Johnson as “a betrayal of the first-order.” He told Friberg that “Greg thought it wisest to lock me up in a mental hospital” after Polignano had what he characterized as “a mental breakdown.”
Still, tax records, public documents and the court documents show Johnson and Polignano continued collaborating and likely living together.
In 2022, Polignano and Johnson launched a nonprofit called the Homeland Institute, according to corporate records that someone filed with the Texas Department of State. Johnson announced the public launch of the Homeland Institute in August 2023 on the Counter-Currents website, describing it as a “public policy research institute.”
The court ordered that Polignano be held without bond. Supervisors at the Frederick County Adult Detention Center have confirmed to Hatewatch that Polignano is in their custody.
Polignano’s trial does not currently have a start date.