Washington – Daniel Gonzalez, FCC chairman Kevin Martin’s chief of staff, has been sued in state court by a pair of creditors stemming from his involvement with a Seattle-based oil and gas company under federal investigation for allegedly operating a $54 million Ponzi scheme.
Gonzalez, who has been on Martin’s personal staff since February 2002, became FCC chief of staff in April 2005 just a month after President Bush gave Martin the title of chairman. Martin has run the FCC by relying on a rigid, top-down management style enforced by Gonzalez with unhappy results for some senior FCC officials viewed as hostile to Martin’s goal of administering strong regulatory medicine to cable operators.
Gonzalez was sued in his capacity as a director of MCube Petroleum, which had been seeking investors to fund oil and gas drilling in Indonesia, according to details in the lawsuit and recent news accounts in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper.
The Seattle paper reported on Dec. 9 that federal law enforcement agents searched MCube’s Seattle office and the homes of two top executives, carting off dozens of boxes, computers and records.
Former MCube CEO Robert Miracle, a co-defendant with Gonzalez in the same suit, is being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service for allegedly operating a Ponzi scheme that involved 200 investors and about $54 million, the newspaper said. A Ponzi scheme rewards original investors with the funds collected from new investors rather than with funds derived from income or capital gains.
The suit involving Gonzalez was filed on Nov. 28 by Donald and Beverly Jefferson, who loaned a relatively small amount of money to MCube. Also sued were Miracle, who allegedly ran the Ponzi operation, and Mukhtar Bin Syed Kechik, MCube’s president in charge of Indonesia operations.
In late 2006, Syed Kechik gave a presentation about MCube to an investor conference in the Arab emirate of Dubai. In describing officials on the MCube’s board, Syed Kachik referred to Gonzalez as “an expert in corporate relations and strategy” but did not mention that he held one of the most powerful staff jobs in the federal government outside the White House.
The suit alleges that in June 2006 the Jeffersons agreed to loan $100,000 to MCube for 270 days at 60% annual interest. After making six payments, MCube defaulted on the loan, triggering the suit, the Jeffersons claim.
The Jeffersons included Gonzalez in the suit because they allege that he and other MCube officials signed an agreement personally guaranteeing the loan. The suit includes a copy of the guarantee signed by Gonzalez.
According to the Post-Intelligencer, Gonzalez was an MCube director for less than a year, from May 2006 to January 2007, before quitting. Gonzalez told the paper that he had not been paid by MCube for his services and that there had been no conflict between his FCC job and his MCube duties.
The newspaper did not explain how Gonzalez became affiliated with MCube. Gonzalez did not return a reporter’s e-mail Tuesday seeking to discuss the suit and his involvement with a high-risk drilling venture formed in early 2005.
An FCC spokesman declined to answer any questions about Gonzalez, including whether Martin gave his top aide approval to moonlight as a corporate director. FCC officials also referred all questions about Gonzalez to a lawyer in the Office of General Counsel, who did not return a reporter’s call seeking comment.