Lawsuit: Propaganda firm owner boasted of online smears
Camille Chidiac is being sued for fraud in a case in which the plaintiff alleges he stole company secrets.
WASHINGTON — The co-owner of the Pentagon’s top propaganda contractor in Afghanistan boasted about launching a smear campaign against USA TODAY and maintained that he’d never be caught, according to a lawsuit filed against him in California.
Camille Chidiac is being sued for fraud in a case in which the plaintiff alleges he stole company secrets involving a process to waterproof iPhones.
Chidiac, along with his sister, owns Leonie Industries, which produces broadcast and print propaganda for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The Pentagon’s inspector general has an ongoing criminal investigation of the smear campaign and the company’s work in Afghanistan. Chidiac also has been suspended from receiving additional federal contracts.
In the lawsuit, Chidiac is alleged to have told an owner of the company, Liquipel, that “he had launched online attacks against companies and officials in an effort to wipe out competitors.” Chidiac went on to say that he had intended to attack the reputations of the USA TODAY journalists and their wives because the paper had run an unfavorable article about him and his company, according to the lawsuit.
USA TODAY reported Feb. 29 that Chidiac and his sister, Rema DuPont, owed the U.S. government more than $4 million in unpaid taxes. By that time, they had been paid more than $120 million in federal contracts. They settled their tax bill a month after the story ran.
The online smear campaign began early in 2012 and included fake Twitter feeds, Facebook pages and fan club sites. Chidiac, according to the lawsuit, said he could mount such attacks and the paper “would never know it was him.”
The smears ended in late April after Pentagon officials were alerted to it. Chidiac acknowledged his role in creating the websites in May but said he had done so as a private citizen. He promised to sell his stake in the company but has not done so, said Gar Smith, a Leonie spokesman.
Jason Fandrich, an attorney for Chidiac, called the accusations in the lawsuit frivolous and without merit.
The Pentagon declined to comment on the lawsuit.