Ex-Green Beret behind Venezuela raid suspected of plagiarism
MIAMI (AP) — The former Green Beret behind a failed military incursion in Venezuela can add another infraction to his growing list of potential screw ups — cut and paste plagiarism.
The website for Jordan Goudreau’s Silvercorp USA appears to have lifted entire passages from the website of the Department of Homeland Security and as well as one run by a crisis management firm. There are also pages found on the website, without active hyperlinks, with wording nearly identical to online texts from inspirational speaker Tony Robbins, a more-established competitor in the private security industry and the fine print of online educational website MasterClass.
Goudreau has claimed responsibility for a failed military incursion Sunday to capture socialist leader Nicolás Maduro that resulted in the detention in Venezuela of two of his former special forces colleagues. The Trump administration has denied any responsibility for the armed raid.
Goudreau has said he was hired last year by opposition leader Juan Guaidó, something the U.S.-backed Venezuelan lawmaker has denied. An Associated Press investigation found that last year Goudreau helped train a team of Venezuelan military deserters in Colombia to carry out a raid.
“When a crisis arises, the first thing people often look for is a leader: the person who knows how to solve the problem and will take the necessary steps to do so,” reads the homepage of SilvercorpUSA.com, which features images of Goudreau firing machine guns in battle, running shirtless up a pyramid and flying on a private jet.
Except for the substituted word Silvercorp, the five-sentence blurb is identical to a passage on the website of Tucker/Hall, a Jacksonville, Florida-based PR firm that specializes in crisis management.
A section of the website promoting his firm’s expertise on “Natural Disaster Mitigation” lifts three sentences verbatim from the Homeland Security website.
Goudreau’s apparent intellectual property theft was first detected by an anonymous social media sleuth who published his findings under the handle @Z3dster on Twitter. “That #SilvercorpUSA site is special,” the person wrote.
“If anyone was doing business with him, this should’ve raised some serious red flags,” @Z3dster said in an interview on what he said was a burner phone, after first being reached via a direct message on Twitter. He declined to provide his real name or location but said he is a system administrator with a degree in political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Z3dster achieved renown in 2017 for discovering former Trump campaign boss Paul Manafort may have used the online password “Bond007.”
Goudreau hung up when contacted by phone on Thursday. David Volk, whose Melbourne, Florida-based law firm represented Goudreau in his past dealings with Guaidó aides in Miami, declined to comment or even confirm whether he represents the special forces veteran with three Bronze Stars.
“Please stop contacting our office,” Volk said in a response to an AP e-mail.
Befitting Goudreau’s own James Bond-like aura, he had a gmail account ending with “007” that Z3dster found. A friend of Goudreau confirmed that the account belongs to the ex-Green Beret. A photo icon associated with that account matches one of a U.S. combat soldier peering through a long-lens camera in mountainous terrain that has appeared on Silvercorp’s website, according to Z3dster.
The friend, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, said he believes Goudreau designed the website himself. The domain was registered in February 2018 by a former business partner. A copy of the site was downloaded by AP on April 12, indicating the plagiarized passages existed before Goudreau was at the center of a major U.S. foreign policy crisis.
In one sloppy mistake on the Silvercorp website, Goudreau appears to have even copied the small print of MasterClass, leaving a trail of 37 citations of the popular educational website in the privacy terms of his website. The link to the privacy terms was not active.
“Anyone embarking on a personal journey toward higher achievement and deeper fulfillment needs a strong core, a foundation on which to build their new life,” reads a sentence on the “Ask Jordan” section of the Silvercorp website that is identical to an “Ask Tony” on Robbins’ website. The section remains on the Silvercorp website but is no longer active.
Sean McFate, a former U.S. Army paratrooper who worked as a private military contractor, said Goudreau’s behavior should raise serious concerns about the lack of enforcement of U.S. laws requiring Americans who conduct private military training abroad to obtain U.S. government licensing.
“Charlatans and amateurs have always haunted the mercenary business,” said McFate, who is the author of “The New Rules of War” on the foreign policy implications of privatized warfare. “But Goudreau finds the new bottom. Silvercorp is literally ’the gang that can’t shoot straight.’ ”
AP Technology Writer Frank Bajak in Boston contributed to this report.
Joshua Goodman on Twitter: @APJoshGoodman