Thursday was my wedding anniversary and the Jeff LeTourneau resignation story was breaking and it was a busy day at work, so I wasn’t paying attention to a court date for my challenge of Irvine City Council candidate Mark Newgent’s ballot designation of “Retired Army Captain” until my lawyer called and let me know the judge ruled in Newgent’s favor. While it’s the same ballot designation Newgent used in 2018, a little research showed since he’s running a business called Access International that sources PPE products from China in the middle of a pandemic, using just his military background as a ballot designation is less than honest (a trait that reoccurs often when it comes to Newgent).
Plus, I find some things Newgent says publicly to be untruthful, therefore making him untrustworthy. He claimed protesters at Irvine’s peaceful BLM demonstration were “paid agitators” without a shred of proof. At the recent Irvine candidate’s forum sponsored by the Irvine Chinese Cultural Center, Newgent told the crowd he was a city commissioner (he never has been and is not) and that his wife is Chinese (she’s Filipina). He created a facebook page and a website called OC Moms 4 Truth and was exposed as the person behind it, hence the nickname “Mother Mark” because what are a few white lies to voters right?
So, I challenged his designation in court. All of the filings are public documents and Newgent is declaring victory, but he probably shouldn’t cheer too loudly due to admissions he made himself in court filings.
His business, Access International, which bills itself as a disabled Veteran’s business, that was described by the OC Register in an April 2020 article as a “medical supply company” that can source PPE products from China. The company website identifies Newgent as the CEO. Newgent has promoted his company’s PPE offerings on social media. The website says the company is hiring and invites visitors during business hours.
Additionally, when Newgent filed for the Irvine City Council race, he put $100,000 of his own money into his campaign coffers on the heels of purchasing a new home in Irvine’s Northwood Pointe neighborhood (where I live). Through Allied International’s website, social media posts and in press interviews, Newgent appears to be a small business success story. Right?
Hold that thought.
He’s not and it’s a sham.
According to the website, Access International has office space in a building off Barranca Parkway in Irvine in a suite with multiple realtors. The name of the company is not on the directory on companies in the building. Access International has not paid Irvine City Business Tax license fees since 2017 so they owe the city under $300 (awesome that he’s running for city council but can’;t be bothered to pay a city business license fee). The OC Register article references Newgent’s “team” when his team is really only him. And in the court filings to defend his position as Retired Army Captain, Newgent states he has never made a dime in earnings from Access International. A medical supply company selling PPE products in the middle of a pandemic can’t make a “dime?”
Here’s what he filed in court papers; just go to page 4 and I have bolded some sentence for emphasis: 20200824 – Newgent – Newgent Declaration iso SLAPP
“Although I have not had full time employment since leaving the military, I have occasionally volunteered in the community. I have served as an Irvine Investment Advisory Committee Member, advising the city on over one billion dollars of city assets. I also served on the current Irvine Mayor’s Advisory Committee and previously served as an Orange County Commissioner on the Waste Management Commission. None of the foregoing positions constitute full time
employment or provide me with a principal source of income.
I am aware of an allegation in the petition in this matter that I have purportedly had “other intervening professions, including a business selling personal protective equipment.” (Pet., p. 7, li. 4-5.) That statement was verified by Petitioner Dan Chmielewski and certified to this Court pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure, section 128.7 by Big Bear Lake attorney Chad D. Morgan. I do not personally know or socialize with Messrs. Chmielewski and Morgan and I have never shared with either gentlemen information about my private financial affairs. Those two gentlemen are speculating. I can say that the statement that I have had other intervening professions is simply not true. Although I have had a smattering of part time jobs since leaving the Army, none have provided me meaningful income. I continue to rely on my military benefits for my principal source of income, including the substantial legal fees needed to fight this lawsuit.
There have been media reports about my connection to Access International, a medical supply company. That company does not provide me with income. As of the signing of this declaration, I have never received one penny in W-2 wages, profit distribution, commission, compensation or other income from Access International. My military benefits remain the principal income I use to pay for food, housing and the other personal needs of me and my family. I am grateful to the military for the benefits that allow me to remain at home and care for my children
An interesting portrait painted for the judge, isn’t it? For the public, Newgent posted this on Facebook messages promoting the company with links back to the company website:
The post was from April 17. In that post, Newgent states: “We have N95 masks again (and other PPE). Our company is a US Federally certified vendor for medical. Make sure to verify your suppliers.”
This post was from April 21, describing Newgent’s mask sales that also links to the same websites. In this post, Newgent writes: Masks are delivered and hospitals are happy with the quality. Many didn’t know our company already supported VA hospitals and is a federally certified SDVOSB by the US Federal Government in 2017. Only due to the recent crisis did we open up our business to serve the general public and civilian hospitals. As of today we can supply 800,000 pieces per day (KN95/FDA EUA-N95 and FDA surgical masks) with current factory capacity and that is set to increase capacity by the end of the month. Contact us if you need to place an order. Buyer beware and make sure to thoroughly vet all of your suppliers.
Hospitals are happy? That implies customers, right? Which hospitals? These posts were from April. Its September and the COVID19 pandemic still rages.
The Register’s April 2020 article portrays Newgent as so:
Mark Newgent’s medical supply company, Access International, took a call a few weeks ago from someone asking to buy millions of N95 face masks to protect people against the coronavirus.
Newgent’s team, in Irvine, grew suspicious when the caller offered to pay in cash, which they don’t accept for the kind of high-volume orders they’ve been importing for three years from trusted factories in China.
The caller then confessed he wasn’t really a customer; he was a Canadian investigator trying to get leads on a shipment of 200 million masks that had gone missing en route to the country.
Newgent still doesn’t know for sure if the caller was an investigator or just another scammer. But the incident offers a window into just how crazy the world has become for middlemen who are brokering deals on personal protective equipment, tests and other gear needed in the fight against COVID-19.
“Everyone is trying to get a piece of the action,” said Newgent, an Army veteran who’s a certified supplier for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The frenzy, he added, is “delaying the PPE from getting to the people who need it.”
Most of the factories that make affordable PPE products are located in China or other Asian countries. That makes it challenging for U.S. hospitals and other essential businesses to get reliable products directly from manufacturers, especially when the competition for those products is fierce and the timeline to get them immediate.
As a result, Southern California distributors like Newgent — who have experience as importers and who have worked with vetted suppliers — are in demand as PPE brokers.
But not all of the brokers are well qualified. The crisis also has prompted the rise of a new class of middlemen, people with limited or no background in imports or in the world of medical supply. Some enter the scene making big promises, sometimes charging exorbitant prices for so-so products or for gear that is never delivered.
While the last paragraph of this excerpt is bolded, it seems to describe Newgent’s business accurately. And did Newgent tell the journalist he has experience as an importer absent evidence? if Access International has been importing for three years, surely some money was made?
So now I can see why Newgent objected to the term we offered for “Army Reservist/Businessman” because as a businessman, it certainly appears from Newgent’s own words, he’s a failure.
So for the retired Army Captain, it s a good thing he’s no longer active duty because conduct unbecoming is an Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is a rule. An example of a violation of this is: Lying – Knowingly making a false official statement.
For Irvine voters, the bigger question ought to be “were you lying then or are you lying now?”