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Right-wing doctor group led by anti-vaccine insurrectionist implodes in scandal


Simone Gold speaking with attendees at the 2020 Student Action Summit hosted by Turning Point USA at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Enlarge / Simone Gold speaking with attendees at the 2020 Student Action Summit hosted by Turning Point USA at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Scandal has reached a full boil at America’s Frontline Doctors—the right-wing pseudo-medical group notorious for peddling bogus COVID-19 treatments and fear-mongering over vaccines and other safe, effective health measures.

The scandal has split the group—aka AFLDS—into warring factions, with its prominent founder, Simone Gold, accused of a slew of wrongdoing, including using the charity group’s funds to buy a $3.6 million mansion for herself and her boyfriend. She’s also accused of staging a hostile coup of the organization in the weeks since her release from federal prison for her role in the January 6, 2021, insurrection, which the group has defended.

The coup has left employees locked out of email accounts and other resources, according to a lawsuit filed by AFLDS against Gold on November 4. The lawsuit also claims Gold seized control of the group’s bank accounts, which reportedly contain at least $7.3 million. For now, it appears Gold also has control over the AFLDS website, which has been pumping out fawning and indignant press releases on her behalf. It’s in an extraordinarily sordid state, even for the ignoble group.

Notoriety

AFLDS first went viral in the early days of the pandemic, memorably spewing pandemic misinformation from the steps of the Supreme Court in a July 2020 event organized by the group Tea Party Patriots. Far-right media outlet Breitbart livestreamed the gathering, and then-President Donald Trump retweeted video clips. The viral clips featured AFLDS member Stella Immanuel falsely claiming hydroxychloroquine is a “cure for COVID.” Immanuel is also notable for previously claiming that gynecological conditions are caused by having sex in dreams with demons and witches, that modern medicine uses “alien DNA,” and that scientists are trying to make a vaccine to prevent people from being religious.

Since the group’s startling national debut, it has carried on with its mission, which it describes as providing “We The People with independent information from the world’s top experts in medicine and law so you can be empowered with facts, protect your health, and exert your inalienable and Constitutionally guaranteed rights.” In doing so, AFLDS has raked in millions of dollars from donations and by helping to dole out dubious prescriptions of ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.

It has also continued its links to far-right political activity, which brought Gold to the Capitol during the January 6 insurrection. Earlier this year, Gold, 56, pleaded guilty for her role in the attack. After joining the mob, she strolled into the rotunda, passing an injured officer without offering medical aid, and gave a speech against COVID-19 vaccine mandates and government-imposed lockdowns. The speech was filmed by her boyfriend, John Strand, an underwear model and AFLDS employee.

Gold was sentenced to 60 days in federal prison. Strand, 39, was found guilty on five offenses, including one felony, and is awaiting sentencing in January 2023. He faces up to 23 years in prison for the combined offenses.

Financial allegations

Since Gold was released from prison on September 9, things have only gone downhill for AFLDS—quite dramatically, in fact. It seems that while Gold was behind bars, other leaders at AFLDS began looking over the books, noting some rather stunning problems with her use of the charity’s funds.

According to a lawsuit filed earlier this month by AFLDS and the chair of its board of directors, Joseph Gilbert, Gold bought a $3.6 million home in Naples, Florida, in November 2021 with AFLDS funds. Gold lives in the house with Strand, neither of whom paid rent to AFLDS. Gold further used AFLDS funds to subsidize her lifestyle, charging the charity $12,000 per month for a personal security officer, $5,600 per month for a housekeeper, and putting $50,000 per month on AFLDS credit cards. Strand, meanwhile, who had a $120,000 annual salary from AFLDS, charged $15,000 to $17,000 per month on AFLDS credit cards.

Around the same time, Gold bought three vehicles with AFLDS funds, including a Mercedes-Benz, the lawsuit alleges. At various times, she also took unauthorized flights on private planes, one of which cost AFLDS over $100,000.

The same month Gold bought her home, she also used AFLDS funds to rent a Florida property for AFLDS employees “AJ” and Lisa Andrzejewski. Gold agreed to put down $45,000 in advance and pay $15,000 per month for the duration of the 12-month lease with the organization’s money.

But things changed after the insurrection. On February 2, 2022—about a month before Gold pleaded guilty—she resigned from AFLDS’ board, and Gilbert was voted into the chair position. In his new role, Gilbert suggested Gold could stay on at AFLDS as a consultant. In negotiations with Gilbert for such a consulting agreement, Gold sought a signing bonus of $1.5 million and a $600,000 annual consulting fee. It’s unclear from the lawsuit if Gold got that deal.



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