The August 13 Venmo Charge David Weiss Claimed Was an August 14 Charge

My very first attempt to fact check one of the claims David Weiss made in the tax indictment of Hunter Biden the other day found what is almost certainly an error — and that’s before other reliability problems with the claims Weiss will face if this ever goes to trial.

But first, I probably owe Hunter Biden (and Katie Dodge, his long-suffering personal assistant during the period of his worst addiction) an apology.

In the indictment, Weiss included this eye-popping table that — he claims — captures Hunter’s spending in the years he charged.

There’s a conceptual problem with the table in any case. He’s showing the years for which he charged Hunter for — at a minimum — not paying his taxes. And while it’s true that if you’re self-employed you’re supposed to make estimated payments during the tax year, many many many people do not. Not paying usually only becomes a problem in the following year, when the taxes are due. Hunter’s alleged crimes occurred starting in 2017, not 2016.

So Weiss should show the income and expenses Hunter had in the following years — the years in which Hunter was legally obligated to pay the taxes. But if Weiss had shifted this table by one year, to show what Hunter was spending out-of-pocket in 2020, he would have had to reveal that in the year Hunter tried to clean up the wreck that he had made of his life in the past four years, he really didn’t have the income to pay those taxes. Weiss makes much of the fact that Kevin Morris paid for certain things in 2020 (probably including alimony and child support), some of that — possibly including the house in Venice where, in a recent podcast with Moby, Hunter describes he was hiding out from right wing mobs ginned up by Fox News — may not have been cash.

The reason I owe an apology, however, is that I assumed that the category, “Payments — Various Women,” meant those were sex workers.

To take this to trial, Hunter Biden has to be willing to let a paparazzi press spend valuable campaign reporting time on how a person can spend $383,548 on sex workers and $100,330 on adult entertainment in one year, 2018. It risks making the 2024 campaign precisely what Rudy Giuliani intended the 2020 one to be.

Then I started thinking about the way Hunter paid actual sex workers — often by Venmo or bank transfer and sometimes even by check — and I realized at least some of that would be captured in an even bigger number (which undoubtedly also reflects drug purchases) of ATM withdrawals: $772,548.

Then it occurred that that “payments — various women” may include to the four women Hunter paid from Owasco funds in 2018, including Dodge, Lunden Roberts, and these two people (who are not otherwise included in the table):

b. Person 2 is someone with whom the Defendant had a romantic relationship and who did no work, nor was she expected to do any work for Owasco, PC. The Defendant placed Person 2 on payroll in Spring 2018 in order to provide her with health insurance. In addition to health insurance, Person 2 received $11,000 in wages, which the Defendant falsely claimed as a business deduction reducing the income to him from Owasco, PC and his individual income taxes.

c. The Defendant placed Person 3 on payroll in spring 2018. Person 3 was a family member of Person 2’s. Person 3 received $11,000 in wages which the Defendant falsely claimed as a business deduction reducing the income to him from Owasco, PC and his individual income taxes. Prior to being placed on payroll, Person 3 had assisted the Defendant with personal errands and some light clerical work. After being placed on payroll, Person 3 did not perform any work-related services.

As I mentioned, Dodge worked her ass off in this period trying to keep Hunter afloat, including contacts with Burisma. I can imagine that an accountant would advise that treating her as payroll was perfectly acceptable. Yet if I’m right about how Weiss allocated this spending, he has insinuated by referring to this category by gender that Dodge, along with the others, was just a sex worker — exacerbating Joseph Ziegler’s labeling of Roberts as a prostitute in his House Ways and Means testimony.

Plus, if you had a personal assistant category, there should be one for the male Keith Ablow associate who in 2019 declared himself Hunter’s Chief of Staff, asked for income twice what Dodge was getting, and at least attempted to take over Hunter’s life, bank accounts, and rolodex. But he’s male and looking too closely at what he was doing when Hunter Biden’s digital life was packed up on a laptop that would eventually make its way to the FBI would raise a lot of questions and so … he doesn’t obviously appear here.

Then there are what Weiss has billed as ATM/Cash Withdrawals, that $772,548 figure. I’m virtually certain that’s wrong and also misnamed. It’s misnamed because we can see Hunter’s ATM withdrawals from Wells Fargo in publicly released data, and while there are days when he was obviously standing outside of an ATM making four $300 withdrawals in a row, that didn’t happen every day. It’s wrong because the credit card payments are almost certainly vastly higher than the curiously round $12,000. And it’s wrong or misnamed because a lot of that would be bank transfers and other kinds of payment, like Uber or Venmo.

Which brings me to the very first expense included in the indictment that I checked (there is at least one other to which I’ll return): a $1,500 Venmo payment to an exotic dancer, which Weiss described this way:

A $1,500 Venmo payment on August 14, 2018. That payment was to an exotic dancer, at a strip club. The Defendant described the payment in the Venmo transaction as for “artwork.” The exotic dancer had not sold him any artwork.

Per files available at BidenLaptopEmails dot com, here’s what that Venmo charge looks like:

Not only is there no way for someone who made this payment in the depths of his addiction to recognize, over a year later, that this woman is an exotic dancer, but Weiss got the date wrong. Venmo records the payment as being made on August 13, 2018 (though the payment may have cleared the next day).

Sure, getting a date wrong by one day in an indictment charging three felonies for making errors on paperwork is not that big of a problem — good enough for government work, they say.

Except it actually is a big deal that Weiss got that date wrong.

The reason I was immediately interested in that payment is because it occurred just days after the day, August 6, 2018, when someone or someones added two new remembered devices to Hunter’s Venmo account 12 minutes apart.

The thing is, it’s distinctly probable that at least one of the devices added to Hunter’s Venmo account was not added by Hunter. That’s because one of those newly added devices — an iPhone added at 15:26 — was located in Flintridge, CA, the foothills north of Pasadena. The other of those newly added devices — also an iPhone, the one added at 15:38 — was located near Las Vegas. According to Gus Dimitrelos’ report, Hunter hadn’t added a new iPhone to his Apple account for months — not since January 21, 2018.

Hunter was doing some crazy things at that point in his life, but getting from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in 12 minutes was probably beyond even the craziest driving; even commercial flights take over an hour.

This is precisely the phone metadata that, I noted, should have led law enforcement officers looking closely, as the IRS has been doing ever since 2018, to raise alarms about whether Joe Biden’s son, at a time when he was obviously hanging out with sex workers and drug dealers, was also having his digital life taken over.

The problem with indicting Hunter Biden for things that were paid through his devices is that — as the same book that Weiss uses to validate the fact that Hunter didn’t work at all in 2018 describes — often, after he engaged in a transaction with some other addict, his watch or jacket or iPad disappeared.

Somebody would eventually come over to my room to sell me something directly, or pass along a connection, for a finder’s fee. When we finished the transaction, the addict was usually out the door before I realized I was missing my watch or jacket or iPad—happened all the time.

“Happened all the time.”

If Hunter’s devices walked away “all the time,” then any payment made through them — certainly any payment made immediately after his Venmo account added two new remembered devices in two different cities 12 minutes apart — would have to be validated individually, to make sure someone else wasn’t making the payment, or at least to make sure Hunter didn’t think he was paying $500 for something but instead getting charged $3,000, which if he remembered it years later he would remember as something else.

“Happened all the time,” I can imagine.

But if you validate an individual Venmo payment adequately enough to be sure Hunter actually paid for it and entered the transaction category as “artwork” himself, then you’re going to get the date right.

And on this payment, in an indictment charging a three felonies for false filings to the Federal government, David Weiss didn’t get the date right.

Update: I have asked both David Weiss’ spox and Abbe Lowell whether they have clarity about the actual date of this payment. I have gotten no response from Lowell and Weiss’ spox has not yet gotten back to me with an answer.

Update: Weiss’ spox “decline[d] to comment beyond the indictment.”

35 replies
  1. Fraud Guy says:

    Have been waiting for this post to drop. It also seems like there’s a distinct likelihood that one or more of the individuals Hunter paid for their association added additional expenses to his account, but by the time he knew it, it was far too late to dispute and/or remember.

    • emptywheel says:

      Right? I don’t think there’s another instance of someone putting through expenses as art, except those two.

      • Shadowalker says:

        Dance isn’t an art? As in performance “art”. Don’t know anything about Venmo, or how it lays it’s categories out, but dance is definitely a form of art. Weiss is a fool.

        • boloboffin says:

          Did Hunter habitually label payments, payments he is known to have actually made, to exotic dancers and sex workers as “artwork”? From the post, it appears that this was an anomaly in his notation.

          • Shadowalker says:

            That makes it even worse. Weiss has to establish a long term pattern to get around the “willfulness” requirement in the statutes. It appears he’s trying to get a conviction based solely on morality.

            • harpie says:

              “It appears he’s trying to get a conviction based solely on morality.”

              Yes, that’s my thought as well…the phrase that came to mind when I first saw the chart was “morality police”

              Payments – Various women

              Just gross…but effective for TRUMP’s purposes.

              • Ginevra diBenci says:

                The chart is embarrassing. It seems intended to serve mainly as a vehicle for puritanical pearl-clutching, as witness the fact that it’s not enough to refer to an “exotic dancer”–it must be stipulated that she was “at a strip club.”

                Do these guys know how they appear to normal people? Do they know about, for example, the head of the Florida GOP and his alleged crimes? The fact that they keep trying to pull this garbage astounds me.

          • emptywheel says:

            There’s some evidence elsewhere that he may have mislabeled payments. Except the crime is in not correcting it when reporting it to the IRS, and if he doesn’t remember that he mislabeled something then it’s hard to prove it is willful.

        • nord dakota says:

          Reminds me of the time local city commission was dealing with some ordinance changes having to do with strip club licensing. Woman testifying has from time to time gotten herself into the news nationally, including her effort to draft Condi Rice to run for president, must have been for 2008. I think she owned one of the local strip clubs. She brought artwork t the hearing, a very large painting of a nude she had done herself, not a very good painting.

          Now Wells Fargo once froze my debit card all because I had travelled to the state capital for a conference, brought my son and his friend along for the ride (their treat was buying surplus decommissioned computers for $5 each at the state surplus warehouse, where the public could buy some things). We were all staring, got in late, ordered a pizza delivery from the (cheap) motel we stayed at. Just like that, blocked. No pizza, no money at all. Couldn’t until I went to WF location the next morning and showed ID.
          But venmo lets you make payments from different devices in different cities 12 minutes apart?

  2. Yogarhythms says:

    David Weiss, is quickly becoming Ticonderoga’s #2 pencil poster child for Santa’s 2023 snowflake Christmas card collection. David has conclusions and a felony indictment but he forgot to build the logical foundation upon which his conclusions rest. Structurally Dr Wheeler just excavated the cornerstone of David Weiss’s new felony indictment of Hunter Biden and it is spongier than a four week old slippery jack mushroom in the Santa Cruz mountain duff.

    • Fraud Guy says:

      Usually buildings don’t last long when their foundations disappear…some criminal cases, however, apparently need less support.

  3. Upisdown says:

    Excellent points. If Weiss wants to rely on Biden’s literary work as admissible evidence, wouldn’t he have to allow for passages such as the iPad thefts?

  4. David Brooks says:

    Have you eliminated the obvious simple explanation, that Hunter could have made the payment on the 14th between midnight and 3am EST?

    I’m even more alerted to this because my son, born in England in the small hours of Aug 14 1979, was simultaneously 5 hours older and a day younger than a good friend born in California late on Aug 13. It really pissed him off when his (younger) friend hit 21 a day before him.

    • emptywheel says:

      Hunter received an email at ~10AM UTC-3 (Marco Polo time), and PT is UTC-8, so he would have RECEIVED notice of the payment between 4-6AM (depending on if he was in LV). Plus, the Venmo receipt seems to show it’s August 13 in PDT.

      • David Brooks says:

        Ah, thanks, I forgot he was probably in LV. Not many exotic artworkers in Newburyport. Not the parts I know, anyway.

        But, yes, I was pointing out the PDT stamp, which could lead to possible date ambiguities. BTW, if by PT you meant PST, it’s indeed UTC-8, but PDT is UTC-7. I don’t think that’s germane given your additional time/zone data.

        • emptywheel says:

          Yeah, I can sort of do East Coast math, except for the two weeks my life is in limbo being off kilter my 5 hours. But one way or another, it’s early morning local time, unless he’s some place we don’t think he is.

  5. zscoreUSA says:

    Interesting about the breakdown of expenses.

    As far as the Venmo transactions on 8/6, I personally don’t think that’s evidence of having his digital life taken over. Hunter was physically in Las Vegas, texting an LA drug source the previous night to arrange a Vegas drug source, and there were issues making a payment. Throughout the Marco Polo data, he sends people his financial information which they use. There is a lot of activity that would be suspicious and evidence of hacking in normal circumstances, but I don’t think given the lifestyle are evidence of hacking here.

    So those Venmo emails that a new remembered device has been added, the second one is Vegas, so I believe that is Hunter retaking control of his Venmo account after letting someone in LA area access it. I’m taking a guess that only one device at a time can be a Venmo remembered device, I will test that out later.

    • emptywheel says:

      It doesn’t matter. A drug dealer obtaining access to your Venmo is still someone who can put through payments on your Venmo. That’s the point. Every single extra access is someone who can then go sell the password.

      The indictment DOESN’T include certain payments they should include. And to my mind that’s part of the same problem. If you can’t put certain sex workers on the stand to assert that Hunter, and not they themselves, made a payment, you can’t prove he made the payment.

      • emptywheel says:

        Or put it another way (especially given the possible exotic dancer before this payment). LV drug dealer gets access to Hunter Biden’s Venmo. What’s to stop him from sharing it with some exotic dancer friends of his? Who’s Hunter going to complain to? The cops?

  6. freebird says:

    I was gobsmacked when I read the indictment. Weiss is making statements as if he was a drug addiction expert analyst instead of a legal expert analyst. He declared HB clean. Addicts are always subject to relapse. That is why they say to have narcan near.

    Addicts in the throes of a drug induced stupors do not have lavish life-styles. A junkie’s environment is full of filth and disease. Hygiene is of a secondary nature. That is why clean needle exchanges are promoted. From my reading and study, addicts lose their ability to think clearly and suffer from damage to the brain’s chemical conversions and structual areas of the brain. The Great Courses has a course called: “The Addictive Brain,” which gave me further insight on how difficult overcoming addition can be.

    Years ago my sister sent her “cleaned up and sober husband” out to buy car with $5K in cash saved up because he destroyed their credit. Over the course of two days the money was gone. Attacking an addict is easy but it lacks compassion which we know that the Republicans do not have.

  7. DinnerAtAntoine’s says:

    FWIW I think the problem for Weiss isn’t sympathy (the point of the allegations of lavishness is to disgust the jury), the problem is proving intent. & IIRC intent is a necessary element of these evasion charges.

  8. DinnerAtAntoine’s says:

    I always try to think of the staff here USAs who have to do the grunt work, & think of all the serious cases they have before them, while tax evasion cases which are satisfied like this one get settled via pleas… and then the amount of work they will have to do on authentication in this matter. Every, single, piece, of data evidence will be challenged for possible hacking, or location (where was HB when XYZ allegedly happened) & awareness. The GOP has given too much, for example who is filming during these salacious videos & pics? Clearly multiple people had access to his devices, some “friends” but also nefarious state actors. It’s going to absolutely be a lousy time for anyone trying to plod through this case in court. The jury will grow weary to boot. I’m thinking no one in Weiss’ office wants this stinker.

    • Shadowalker says:

      I don’t think the IRS wants it either. Or they would have brought these charges long ago. To be clear, this is Weiss as SC bringing the charges not at the behest of the IRS.

  9. Rugger_9 says:

    Well, with all of these holes in the ‘evidence’ that Weiss has, the plea deal looks better from the government view but is now OBE. Now Weiss will get the thrill of Lowell taking a Ginzu to his allegations in court filings that can’t be buried so easily by Faux News or Comer’s committee.

    What worries me is the judge assigned here, apparently he’s a bad Trumper but I’ll see what our legal contributors can tell us. If he proves to be a hack, no amount of exculpatory evidence will matter until Lowell can get him pitched off the case.

    OT 1: Defendant-1 chickened out in NYC. No surprise there.

    OT 2: Congrats to the USMA for winning Army-Navy in the most A-N way, by inches. We’ll get you next year.

    • dar_5678 says:

      OT2b: WHY do the Army and Navy sports team buses get state police escorts with blocked highway on-ramps when they travel down the Interstates??

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I imagine it’s because they are officer candidates in the US armed services, and more likely to be political targets than teams from UCLA or Penn State.

        • dar_5678 says:

          “But the terrorism”?

          While we’re imagining reasons, I lean more toward some sort of patriotism demonstration than any kind of threat response, real or perceived.

          I just can’t reconcile the idea of blocking the on-ramp to I-95 for 20 minutes because we love our country so much.

      • Rugger_9 says:

        I live near Levi’s and all sports teams get escorts, not just the service academies. Nothing to see there.

  10. timbozone says:

    Sadly, this sort of thing may be a feature and not a bug in the GOP ratfucker playbook. Any discrepancies in the prosecution’s narrative will simply reinflate the media hype as this insane prosecution proceeds. Also, regrettably, compassion and empathy doesn’t seem to be a prominent feature of most of the true believers and grifters involved i perpetuating The Big Lie.

  11. Harry Eagar says:

    Not my area of expertise, but do ladies of the night take checks now? (Does anybody?)

    A friend of mine wrote of his last night before shipping out for Vietnam about 1968.

    Alone in San Francisco, he picked up a streetwalker, who told him, “I don’t take no checks.”

    They spent all night, talking part of the time, and he found her so sympathetic that he wanted to give her a tip. But he had no more cash So he offered her a check.

    She was firm: “I don’t take no checks.”

  12. bgThenNow says:

    I use Venmo mostly to receive rent payments. First, there is no reason to note what a payment is for. It is not required. I’m sure people note payments for “groceries” when it is a payment for drugs or whatever. I have had workers who don’t want it specified, or we have just made something up. I am generally very concerned about what happens if I would be audited, so my inclination is always to have a legit receipt (notation) for a cash transaction/payemnt on my end. I would rather specify especially if there is no written receipt from someone for their labor. There are two options for the transfer of money from payer to payee: 1-3 days (which gives Venmo a float with the money, so there is no fee) or immediate transfer, for which a fee is charged. That fee would show up in the bank statement of the payer as an addition to the payment from their account. My bank statements always say if it is a Venmo transaction. The prosecution should have the “receipts” for all of this. And the payee would be dunned by Venmo for the immediate transfer, a percent of the transaction. I imagine dope dealers would want the money immediately, maybe there would be a fee charged to the buyer in that case, but it would show up on one end of the transaction or the other. I don’t know if the prosecutors have both ends of these transactions or just his.

  13. Spencer Dawkins says:

    I read this post a few minutes after it appeared on the website, and have reread it, and followed the comments up to this point. I do want to thank Marcy for suffering through this swamp on behalf of our justice system – I’ve seen middle school students who were significantly more detail-oriented than David Weiss seems to have been in this indictment. SHEESH. Even if Hunter Biden is being prosecuted vindictively, you can still be vindictive without being lazy, sloppy, and careless.

    And, for what it’s worth, if I were on Hunter Biden’s jury, I’d listen to the case, but it wouldn’t be easy to convince me that convicting him was the right thing to do … and Weiss’s crap work on the indictment wouldn’t make that any easier.

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