QAnon Leaders Push Followers Into Multi-Level Marketing

April 18, 2022 | Corey Augenstein

qanon

Move over, LuLaRoe—Q’s gang is getting into MLMs.

In a December livestream to his QAnon fanbase, conspiracy theorist Phil Godlewski laid out what he described as the key to their financial futures: buying silver.

The precious metal, Godlewski insisted, would soon explode in value after the passage of legislation some QAnon believers think will bring on a utopia. Income taxes would be eliminated, debt would be abolished, and anyone holding silver would become fabulously wealthy.

But Godlewski didn’t want his followers to buy silver from just any company. Instead, he told them to buy through 7k Metals, a multi-level marketing business and metals dealer.

Godlewski and other leading QAnon conspiracy theorists have found a new way to make money from their supporters: directing them to buy and sell products for multi-level marketing companies.

MLMs, which rely on new members recruiting subordinate salespeople, with the original “upline” making money from their “downline” recruit’s sales, have previously been the domain of leggings and essential oils companies. But now QAnon leaders want in on the action.

While many MLMs are legal, some have been compared to illegal pyramid schemes, in which new members pay in money to join without any possibility of making their money back. Disillusioned MLM members have complained that they’ve been left badly in debt when their profits failed to materialize.

Selling silver through 7k Metals marked the latest business move from Godlewski, who served time in jail last year after bouncing a bad check for more than $21,000, then falsifying bank records to avoid being caught. In an unrelated 2010 case, Godlewski was indicted over carrying on an alleged sexual relationship with a 15-year-old. He later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of corrupting a minor.

Godlewski isn’t alone. More QAnon promoters have turned to promoting multi-level marketing companies as ways to monetize their followings.

QAnon booster Richard Potcner, who goes by the name “Richard Citizen Journalist” online, rose to prominence in conspiracy-theorist circles in 2020 by filming hospitals as “proof” that the pandemic was a hoax.

This spring, Potcner came to his followers with a serious message: It was time to buy silver. Like Godlewski, he had teamed up with 7k Metals to pitch his supporters on joining the MLM.

“Patriots are unstoppable together,” Potcner said, encouraging his followers to put their retirement funds into silver.

While the business relationships between the QAnon promoters and the MLM companies are unclear, both Godlewski and Potcner could stand to profit substantially if they’re counted as the “uplines” for followers who join 7k Metals.

Godlewski, Potcner, and 7k Metals didn’t respond to requests for comment.

QAnon leaders aren’t just selling silver. Scott McKay, a Q-backer who wields a tomahawk on stage and openly fantasizes about the murder of Democrats in his videos, appears at QAnon rallies across the country under the name “Patriot Streetfighter.”

In posts on the messaging app Telegram in March, McKay urged his fans to prepare for the launch of a mysterious project called “Operation Tomahawk.” Revealing little about the project, he promised that he was launching an “economic warfare platform” that would take on liberal corporations and “choke them out.”

“We are going to have millions and then tens of millions of people participating in this,” McKay declared in a video.

McKay’s Operation Tomahawk turned out to be Patriot Switch, another direct-selling business based on multi-level marketing. This time, QAnon followers are being urged to buy their products through Patriot Switch, thereby “supporting companies that promote freedom.” In a video to his followers, McKay promised that they would earn commissions by recruiting new people to sell through the company.

McKay didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Promoting the MLMs hasn’t always gone smoothly for the QAnon figures. In 2021, Godlewski’s efforts to pitch his followers ran afoul of Jeanette Geary, a conservative activist and Godlewski detractor. Geary told The Daily Beast in a December email that she had contacted the FBI and other law enforcement agencies about Godlewski’s silver operation. (Godlewski hasn’t been charged with any crimes connected to the silver sales).

Last year, Godlewski sued Geary for defamation in a Pennsylvania federal court over her allegations. Geary has claimed that Godlewski encouraged his followers to empty their 401(k) retirement accounts and convert them into silver sold by 7k Metals, according to his lawsuit.