The executive director of the Mutual UFO Network, one of the oldest UFO research organizations in the United States, has been arrested on charges of soliciting a minor “for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity,” according to police. Jan Harzan, who has headed MUFON since 2013, is accused of soliciting “sexual activity from a detective he believed was a 13-year-old girl,” according to a release from the Huntington Beach, CA police department.
In recent years, the UFO research world has been flooded with Pizzagate-esque allegations, falsely linking scientific and government elites to the occult sexual abuse of children, and accusing the government of releasing UFO videos to cover up pedophile rings. Harzan’s arrest is almost certain to reignite those controversies.
Court records show that Harzan was arrested on charges of “communicating with a minor with intent to engage in a lewd act,” as well as “arranging a meeting to engage with a lewd act with a minor in public.”
Harzan, MUFON, and the Huntington Beach Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. (See update below.)
"On July 3, detectives contacted a male by the name of Jan Harzan after Harzan solicited sexual activity from a detective he believed was a 13 year old girl," the Huntington Beach PD wrote in a Facebook post. "The suspect solicited the minor to meet for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity, and when the suspect agreed to meet the supposed minor, detectives were there to take him into custody."
Harzan was "arrested for multiple felonies and transported to the Huntington Beach Jail [and was] specifically targeting minor females online," the police department wrote.
MUFON’s role in the UFO world is massive. The organization was founded in 1969 in Quincy, Illinois to track citizen sightings of UFOs; they claim to still hold the world’s “largest and most detailed database of UFO sightings.” The organization has worked closely with government contractors, including Bigelow Aerospace, which received money from the federal government to investigate unidentified aerial phenomena. According to documents reviewed by Motherboard, Bigelow Aerospace paid MUFON to make technical reports on characteristics often described in UFO incidents. Bigelow Aerospace also offered MUFON funding to put together the STAR Team, a UFO investigation team that could be on site within 24 to 48 hours of a UFO incident.
According to the organization's website, Harzan is a former IBM engineer who, when he was a kid, was "visited by a real UFO, no more than thirty feet from [his brother and him], with no visible means of propulsion other than making a humming noise, before shooting off over the horizon. This event profoundly changed their lives."
In 2018 a former MUFON state director, John Ventre, made racist comments about African Americans on his personal Facebook page, stating that white Americans were experiencing a “white genocide.” Jan Harzan did not condemn Ventre but instead expressed his concern for "the new social media world we now live in" and stated everyone should engage in open dialogue by writing, "There is no justice in hate, no matter what side of the fence you are on. On that we can all agree." MUFON eventually withdrew Harzan’s comments from its website and Ventre was removed from his position when public pressure mounted.
Last month, Ken Pfeifer, head of MUFON Rhode Island, posted racist memes and comments on Facebook during the height of the Black Lives Matter protests. “HOLY SHIT….I WOULD OF PICKED THEIR COTTON FOR THEM….IF I THOUGHT IT WOULD END THIS BLM RACIST MADNESS.”
Chris Cogswell, MUFON’s former Director of Research, who left because of what he said was a racist culture at the organization, said “the main leadership levels of MUFON have been problematic for a number of years, and provides essentially nothing to the individual chapters which are for the most part run by decent, intelligent, and caring members of their communities. Although everyone is entitled to the assumption of innocence until proven guilty, this is a heinous charge. I cannot foresee any possibility of MUFON continuing, but hope the individual chapters can put their time and energy into an organization that will benefit them as much as they benefit it."
Jason McClellan, a popular UFO podcast host, tweeted that "Shocked doesn't describe what I'm feeling right now. I just learned that the executive director of MUFON was arrested for soliciting a minor. I always considered Jan to be a friend. This is really disturbing and disgusting news."
Update, July 15, 3:20 P.M. EST:
In a statement to Motherboard, MUFON's Board of Directors said that Harzan has been "permanently removed" as Executive Director of the organization:
In light of recent events, Jan Harzan has been permanently removed as the Executive Director of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON).
Effective immediately, he will no longer serve any role in the organization.
David MacDonald, Executive Director Emeritus and a member of the MUFON Board of Directors, will now assume the duties of Executive Director. MUFON remains committed to its core mission: the study of UFOs for the benefit of humanity. This mission is greater than any one person or member of MUFON and supersedes all other considerations. We will continue to move forward and focus on our mission statement.