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Adam Kinzinger Quietly Stepped Away From Scandal-Plagued Ukraine Aid Group ‘Months’ Ago

Former Illinois Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger has quieted down from a U.S.-based company providing assistance to the Ukrainian military months before media reports revealed he was facing a federal investigation. left at

Kinzinger joined Ripley’s Heroes, a limited liability company. Established In April 2022, retired Lieutenant Colonel Hunter “Rip” Rawlings provided non-lethal support to the Ukrainian military as an unpaid adviser in September, according to to the announcement.Other Ukrainian volunteers claim Ripley’s Heroes executives lied about military service in Ukraine after media reports Indicated Regarding the federal investigation into Ripley’s Heroes, CNN told the Daily Caller News Foundation that Kinzinger had not consulted with the company in months.

A CNN spokesperson told DCNF: “Adam has not been on the Ripley’s Heroes advisory board and has been absent for several months.

According to the announcement, Kinzinger was in an advisory position and did not receive any money. He met with members of the Ripley’s Heroes, including Rawlings, James Vasquezthe organization’s chief strategy officer (CSO) tweeted as early as June show.

Kinzinger Before called Vasquez is a “freedom fighter” pleaded A Twitter admin confirmed Vazquez’s account and called him ‘legal’ after a month lobbying Using PayPal to restore service for Vasquez and Ripley’s Heroes shows the tweet. However, Vazquez, a U.S. Army veteran, has been accused of illegally carrying weapons and faking military service in Ukraine during the war with Russia.

Despite frequently posting on social media about his service deploying to the front lines with Ukrainian Army soldiers, other volunteers who interacted with Vazquez called him a theater actor, telling the DCNF that he routinely fought in combat. Said he was embellishing the activity. Vasquez called As he himself admitted, he himself was a “lower commander” and was not a formal member of a military unit, but carried weapons. according to to tweet.

Ripley’s Heroes has since removed Vasquez from their organization-supported “The Heroes” description page, but Vasquez’s biography is still there. appear An archived version of the webpage, and Vasquez’s LinkedIn page is still available Are listed He as the CSO of Ripley’s Heroes.

Ripley’s Hero Under Investigation For Potential Illegal Transfer

According to social media posts, media reports, and interviews conducted by the DCNF, other foreign volunteers in Ukraine suggested Ripley’s Heroes lacked transparency and questioned the integrity of the organization. There is

Volunteers said Ripley’s Heroes purchased $63,000 in night vision and thermo-optical equipment, including military equipment subject to U.S. export restrictions, as it could aid hostile forces. according to to the New York Times.

The NYT reported on March 25 that federal authorities had launched an investigation into the cargo, citing US officials. The report did not specify a timeline, only indicating that the investigation had recently begun. (Related: Watchdog received nearly 200 complaints related to Ukrainian aid)

Volunteers told the NYT that Ripley’s delivered the equipment without providing the necessary paperwork documenting the buyer and recipient.Rawlings said Ripley’s had not notified the State Department that it had purchased the equipment. filed transaction documents with the NYT showing

Exports of items that have both commercial and military uses are regulated by the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). according to to the International Trade Bureau. The Department of State administers regulations governing the export and sale of defense articles and defense services known as the ITAR.

Individuals wishing to export items subject to the ITAR must obtain a license from the Department of State. according to ITAR regulations.

The NYT report did not reveal the categories of items or services that Ripley’s sought to export from the United States, and neither Ripley’s Heroes nor Rawlings themselves responded to multiple DCNF requests for comment. appears to be displaying a US-made M4 rifle.

“The Department of State and the Department of Defense closely monitor the end uses of sensitive U.S. equipment. The Ukrainian Armed Forces is responsible for equipping its forces, including security assistance provided by partners,” a State Department spokesperson said. A representative spoke to DCNF and forwarded any further questions to Ripley’s Heroes.

BIS did not respond to a request for comment.

“Untrustworthy”

Rawlings told the NYT in March that his company had raised more than $1 million in donations to date.

In 2022, Ripley’s Heroes spent $25,000 on remote-controlled intelligence-gathering vehicles, but according to shipping records, they never arrived, the outlet reports. Rawlings said they are stuck in Poland.

text conversation Posted One published online by a third party in February appears to show volunteers referring to a reconnaissance vehicle stuck at Polish customs. This individual claims Ripley’s was “shady” and stopped working with Atlas after a third-party issue and Ripley’s promised him $28,000 in refunds for undelivered equipment. doing.

“[Ripley’s Heroes] We paid over $10,000 for the UGV (unmanned ground vehicle) plus $7 for transportation. [sitting] A month in Polish customs,” the individual claimed in a text conversation claiming to be with Vazquez. In total, Ripley’s has raised about $1 million, according to the same message.

The conversation appears to be consistent with the NYT’s report, but the DCNF was unable to authenticate the text message, and neither the individual who posted the conversation nor Atlas Global Aid responded to requests for comment.

April Huggett, a volunteer who carries donated equipment to frontline soldiers, has tweeted since January that she regularly works with Ripley’s Heroes. showHowever, in March, after another volunteer said Vazquez was misrepresenting his assignment in the Ukrainian army, she said: put out Additionally, she claims that she helped Ripley’s Heroes raise $5,000 Canadian dollars (approximately US$7,000) to purchase the truck, and that she had no involvement with the purchase notice or receipt of the transaction.

“They give out stuff, but they always take less than what’s requested,” Huggett told DCNF. [sic] requested unit [six] Helmets and bulletproof vests, they’ll give them three.

Ripley’s posted one financial report on its website in April 2022, shortly after incorporation. showRipley’s said it raised $248,000 in its first month, all of which, minus a 3% transaction fee, went toward program-related expenses.

As of March, Ripley’s is still awaiting approval from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to designate the for-profit business as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization, Rawlings told the NYT. .

However, Rawlings does not require the expenditure or proof of non-commercial applications, such as Form 1023, which requires a company to file a petition with the IRS to transition from commercial to non-commercial, to the NYT or the donor who requested it. refused to provide. So it’s not clear where or how the money that went into Ripley’s Heroes was spent.

DCNF has requested that the IRS provide a copy of the 1023 filed on behalf of Ripley’s Heroes.

Moving an organization from a corporation to a nonprofit has raised suspicions within the IRS as to the motives of the owners, Daniel Kurtz, an attorney who serves nonprofit clients, told DCNF.

“A business can act like a charity. It can do whatever it wants, but its goal is to make money for its owner,” Kurtz said.

Applying for tax-exempt status can take several months, but the IRS can expedite the process, depending on actual events, and may require the founder to transfer ownership of the company.

But in January, Vasquez Said Social media posts were references to tax-exempt status “pending” in the United States, achieving the “501” status Ripley achieved in Ukraine, and soon in Poland, possibly as a tax-exempt organization. Vazquez said in a tweet that the company plans to refund taxes once it gains nonprofit status.

However, Kurtz said Vasquez’s explanation runs counter to belief.

“It’s unreliable,” Kurtz told DCNF.

In addition, Rawlings launched a second company, Iron Forge Solutions, in October, co-located with Ripley’s Heroes in Great Falls, Virginia. according to in state records. Ironforge Ripley will provide transportation to Heroes and other aid organizations in Ukraine, Rawlings told the NYT.

The NYT claimed that no conflict of interest existed, even though his nonprofit theoretically paid his for-profit organization for its services. Iron Forge will eventually fund charities, Rawlings explained.

“There’s clearly a potential conflict of interest,” Kurtz told DCNF, given the opportunity for Rawlings to channel donations from nonprofits to profitable companies.

However, Vasquez has more than once referred to Ripley’s Heroes as a “foundation” rather than a company. show.

Kinzinger isn’t just Washington official Ripley’s Heroes or company employees who tried to get involved in their philanthropic efforts.

On October 28, Vazquez met with Kyle Parker, who was appointed by Congress in 2018 as Chief of Staff to the Helsinki Commission. shape U.S. policy toward the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, according to to tweet. “Discussion topics included upcoming lend-lease requirements, tactical requirements in Ukraine and ITAR regulations that need to be amended,” Vasquez said.

Ripley’s Heroes did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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