Federal authorities are reviewing complaints filed against Mario Nawfal, a businessman who has become one of Twitter’s biggest audio stars in recent months, according to two people who said they spoke with FBI and SEC officials this week. .
Chet Long, a retired US Air Force analyst who worked with Nawfal as a consultant, and Sigmund Holtz, a former Nawfal contractor, said they had both spoken with federal authorities in recent days.
Long said he reported Nawfal to the US consulate in Calgary, the FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission in December. He said the businessman refused to pay him money he owed him and that Nawfal embezzled funds from a company where he was formerly CEO..
Long said the FBI told him in a phone call Tuesday to preserve a cell phone as potential evidence in connection with his initial report to the agency. He also alleged that Nawfal has discussed tax evasion in conversations with him and that Nawfal personally owes him $27,000.
“I don’t want your dirty money,” Long said. «But it’s something he promised and never sent.»
Nawfal told NBC News that «there is no outstanding debt» with Long and that «this allegation is the first of its kind made by him.» He said that he «has maintained a positive and friendly relationship» with Long. Nawfal did not refer to numerous tweets by Long posted in recent days alleging that he «caused emotional harm» to Long’s family.
Holtz, in response to the NBC News disclosure, confirmed that he was contacted and spoke with SEC employees who requested specific information about Nawfal.
Nawfal has not publicly referred to the SEC or FBI reports, but in response to a WhatsApp message from NBC News, he said: «Throughout my extensive business career spanning more than a decade, I have maintained a track record flawless without any legal procedure. whether civil or criminal. Also, I have never been contacted by any law enforcement agency as there are no legitimate grounds for the investigation. Therefore, any claims indicating law enforcement involvement appear to be blatantly false.”
The SEC declined to comment to a request for comment from NBC News and the FBI did not respond to a request for comment.
Nawfal, who quickly gained fame online by hosting some of the biggest Twitter spaces on the platform, has been boosted by his public association with Elon Musk. Musk has participated in his discussion groups on the platform and has endorsed his discussion groups numerous times in recent days. On Saturday, Musk shared one of Nawfal’s tweets about the Russia conflict, praising Nawfal’s content.
«The best coverage of the situation I’ve seen so far is from Mario,» Musk tweeted.
Nawfal has more than 913,000 followers on Twitter, where he frequently tweets news and hosts discussions about the Spaces feature, which enables large group audio chats. When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced his candidacy for president using the platform, Nawfal ran an adjacent space that sometimes held more listeners than the ad.
But as Nawfal’s star has risen, it has also faced increasing scrutiny, including public allegations of fraud and poor business practices by former employees, contractors and customers.
In December, Frank Heijdenrijk, former director of marketing for Nawfal’s company, International Blockchain Consulting Group, tweeted that Nawfal owed him $60,000 in back wages. Heijdenrijk has also made public saying that Nawfal embezzled money and artificially inflated the number of people who seem to listen to his spaces with low-quality paid accounts.
Heijdenrijk said in a telephone interview that he reported Nawfal to Dutch police, the SEC, the German stock exchange and Germany’s financial watchdog organization.
Over the weekend, a series of tweets from Heijdenrijk about Nawfal were posted. viraland Nawfal replied: writing, “The guy is trying to extort money from me and has caused me significant damage in the process. I’m contemplating sharing the story openly, to show how far he’s gone to hurt me and my company/team, but instead of airing my clothes on social media, I’m doing the right thing through the courts of law.»
musk too answered to Heijdenrijk’s posts, writing, “well, he seems to create some good content. That being said, use of this platform for any scam will result in account suspension.» Musk continued to interact with Nawfal’s content the next day.
Nawfal said he was «currently in the process of initiating legal proceedings against Frank» and that his «allegations lack factual accuracy and lack any substantiating basis or evidence.»
However, he added that his company agreed at one point to pay Heijdenrijk money for hours worked only after a round of financing was completed. He said Heijdenrijk «unexpectedly demanded immediate payment, which was in contradiction with our agreed agreement.» He said the company then refused to pay Heijdenrijk.
When asked to provide evidence of extortion, Nawfal provided a series of screenshots between himself and Heijdenrijk in which Heijdenrijk repeatedly asked him for payment. The screenshots did not appear to contain direct threats. Nawfal said Heijdenrijk «was committed to destroying me and my company» but said he could not immediately provide evidence for the claim.
Heijdenrijk says that in December he received a request for arbitration from Nawfal’s company, which claimed that it had breached a confidentiality agreement it had signed. On Wednesday morning, after NBC News first contacted Nawfal for comment, Heijdenrijk said he received notice that the hearing had been initiated by the arbitration service and International Blockchain Consulting Group, the company that Nawfal founded and runs as CEO.
Nawfal said that Heijdenrijk and Long were «unhappy» and «outliers on a harmonious career path.»
News of the investigations by US authorities comes after the initial report by YouTube personality Chris Zarzewski. in a series of videos On his Upper Echelon channel, the YouTuber discussed the fraud allegations against Nawfal..
Nawfal threatened sue Zarzewski and denied the allegations. Zarzewski said he never received notice of a formal lawsuit, and a review of court records for this article failed to locate a lawsuit filed by Nawfal against Narzeski.
Nawfal said Zarzewski’s video was based «solely on assumptions derived from false or incomplete information» and that he «is currently considering legal proceedings.»