The filing doesn’t show DeSantis, Fauci are in the diamond business

REQUEST: A legal filing shows that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, are involved in an Oklahoma diamond mining operation.

AP ASSESSMENT: False. The document does not prove that either leader has an interest in the alleged business named in the filing, Paragon Diamonds, LLC. Legal experts confirmed to the Associated Press that the filing appears to be bogus, meaning it was filed without any reasonable reason or is invalid. The company does not appear on the Oklahoma business register, and representatives for DeSantis and Fauci also confirmed that neither are involved in that entity.

THE FACTS: Social media users in recent days have been spreading the Florida filing to falsely claim it proves DeSantis, Fauci and others are in business together at an Oklahoma diamond mining company.

“Can anyone answer why Ron DeSantis is in the Oklahoma diamond business with Anthony Fauci and a former CDC director?” wrote one Twitter user this month, sharing images of the form and a link to the filing on Florida’s secure transaction ledger.

Similar Instagram posts also claimed the two are “in a diamond mining business in Oklahoma together,” sharing pictures of the same deposit.

However, legal experts have confirmed that the filing appears to be fraudulent and contains numerous errors.

The form, called UCC-1, is a Florida Uniform Commercial Code funding statement that was filed in January 2021. The Uniform Commercial Code is a set of laws for all business transactions.

A loan statement is a legal form that allows a lender to announce a lien – or legal claim – on an asset to secure a loan. By submitting the legal notice, a lender declares his or her right to obtain personal property, or security, of defaulting debtors on commercial loans.

On this particular form, the filer lists a Sulfur, Oklahoma address under the name of Paragon Diamonds, LLC. The filer claims that DeSantis, Fauci and others are “debtors” who owe money to the filer, called a “creditor”. The filing also misspells DeSantis’ middle name.

However, it’s unclear whether the filer is claiming that the individuals named are involved in a diamond business. The funding statement does not specify any guarantees.

“It’s almost certainly an invalid filing in the sense that it doesn’t actually describe any collateral,” said Lynn LoPucki, a professor at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law.

He added that the filing appeared to be “obviously fake” and said he saw no mention of a diamond mine in the actual request made on the form. In fact, there is only one active diamond mine in the United States, and it’s al Diamond Crater State Park in Arkansas, according to the park.

There are further signs that it’s not legit, said Thomas Russell, a visiting professor at Levin College of Law.

“This is a frivolous deposit. That’s not what the form should be used for,” Russell said. “The statement doesn’t make any sense.”

LoPucki explained that the uniform commercial code system can easily be abused, because such funding statements do not have to be verified before filing, nor do they require a signature from all named parties. This means that anyone can file such a lien involving anyone.

“There’s a lot of problems with the UCC system because they don’t require loan statements to be signed by the borrower,” he said.

Russell added that the problem is “quite common” that many states have passed statutes that make it easier to file such documents or penalize the person who made them.

A 2019 report of the National Association of Secretaries of State on increasing those filings it said that “funding claims that lack legitimate basis under the UCC” are “a persistent problem for state filing offices and targeted individuals.”

“Often used as a retaliatory measure by members of government separatist groups, inmates, and others seeking to harass or intimidate public officials and corporations/lenders, these documents can create serious financial hardship for victims,” the report said.

The report also finds that the secretary of state’s offices, which typically serve as the place of filing of these public notices, do not have the authority to verify the accuracy or validity of the documents.

A DeSantis spokesperson confirmed to the AP that the filing is inaccurate.

“Governor DeSantis is not involved in such activities,” Press Secretary Bryan Griffin wrote in an email.

The National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, of which Fauci is the director, also confirmed in a statement to the AP that the information in the filing is false.

Also, no records of such a business called Paragon Diamonds, LLC, appear in the Oklahoma Secretary of State Business Registrynor do any of these entities appear under the filer name in the same database.

The filer did not respond to a request for comment.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared disinformation, including working with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to the misleading content circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.

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