How This Proud Boy Got $1 Million for Bail

Ethan Nordean hopes the cash will convince a judge to free him from jail as he faces conspiracy charges for the Capitol riot. Federal lawyers want to know where the money came from.
August 4, 2021, 5:20pm
PRO-TRUMP PROTESTERS, INCLUDING ETHAN NORDEAN (CENTER), MARCH IN FRONT OF THE CAPITOL BUILDING ON JANUARY 6, 2021, IN WASHINGTON, DC.

UPDATE August 4, 2021, 6:58 p.m.: This story has been updated to reflect comment from Nordean’s lawyer regarding the source of the fund.

Proud Boy “Sergeant-at-Arms” Ethan Nordean has casually turned up nearly $1 million in cash, which he’s hoping will be enough to convince a federal judge to let him out of jail on bond. 

But the government thinks that Nordean, aka “Rufio Panman”—who is facing serious conspiracy charges for his alleged actions at the Capitol on January 6—owed them an explanation for how the recently fired restaurant worker came by his newfound fortune. 

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One day after government lawyers asked for the source of the funds, Nordean’s lawyer told VICE News the money came from his family. His father had previously publicly condemned his son for his association with the Proud Boys.

The recent back-and-forth in court documents filed this week is part of Nordean’s ongoing battle to get out of jail before trial. Until now, the feds have successfully persuaded a judge that messages sent by Nordean in the aftermath of the Capitol riot showed that he remained a committed and die-hard member of the Proud Boys, making him a security risk. Prosecutors have also surfaced evidence that they say shows that Nordean was acting as the group’s de facto leader on January 6. 

Nordean is now offering up a bond secured by $1 million in cash, and a home which is worth the same amount, according to his lawyer. Were he to be released, he would agree to be under 24/7 surveillance via a network of video cameras streamed online, “creating a virtual Panopticon,” his lawyer said.

But in response to Nordean’s motion, prosecutors say that his “sudden windfall raises more questions about Defendant’s [Nordean’s] continuing power and clout than it resolves.” 

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VICE News identified two online fundraisers for Nordean, created since January 6. One of them, which sought to raise $20,000 via the Christian donation platform GiveSendGo, is now deleted and only viewable via an internet archive site. 

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A television screenshot in court documents.

It’s not clear whether they ever reached that goal, but the most recently viewable version of the page from February showed that it had raised $6,475 through a total of 100 individual donations at that time. A second fundraiser, set up in late March on “Our Freedom Funding” (which touts itself as the “#1 unbiased platform on the internet”) only raised $17,124 of the $100,000 goal, through 328 individual donations. 

In the past, Proud Boys and their associates have used 1776 Shop, which accepts payments via card or bitcoin, as a means to raise money for specific causes or individuals who are having trouble with the law. For example, former President Donald Trump confidant Roger Stone sells a T-shirt saying “Roger Stone Did Nothing Wrong” via the 1776 marketplace. The only page on the marketplace associated with Nordean is from 2018, which was raising money for him to buy podcasting equipment through the sale of rubber bracelets. The “Rufio Support Bands” come in different colors, and are priced between $25 and $5,000 apiece. 

Nordean is also listed as a manager of WarBoys LLC, a company incorporated in Florida in July 2020 and registered to Proud Boy chairman Enrique Tarrio’s home address in Miami. (The other manager listed is prominent Proud Boy organizer Joe Biggs, who is also facing conspiracy charges linked to January 6). WarBoys is also the name of the Proud Boys’ podcast streamed on the gaming platform Trovo. (The Proud Boys were founded in 2016 by Gavin McInnes, who was a co-founder of VICE. He left the company in 2008 and has had no involvement since then.)

Once streamers have amassed over 50 subscribers and accumulated 400 hours watched, they can apply for a program that allows them to make money through Trovo. It’s unclear whether the WarBoys podcast have reached this requirement (they have 86 subscribers), but it’s worth noting that monetized streaming platforms can be an incredibly lucrative source of revenue for extremists. Megan Squire, who teaches computer science at Elon University, analyzed payments to extremists made via another streaming platform Dlive, and found that some, such as white nationalist Nick Fuentes, were making about $10,000 per month. (WarBoys were initially streaming on DLive but were suspended after the platform came under scrutiny for hosting extremists).

Until last year, Nordean was working at his family’s restaurant, Wally’s Chowder House, in Des Moines, Washington. His dad, Mike Nordean, fired him from the restaurant when he learned about his involvement in the Proud Boys. “Ethan no longer works for our restaurants. We do not share his misguided beliefs,” his dad said in a statement. “We are disappointed and appalled that he has chosen this path.” 

Back in 2017, Nordean also briefly went into business with a cop selling protein powders for $40 per tub through a company called Bangarang Elite Supplements LLC. That company is no longer operating. 

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