Pro-Trump Pundit Accused of Pocketing $200K Meant for Ukraine Body Armor

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty/YouTube
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty/YouTube

Pro-Trump pundit John Cardillo is known for his pugnacious Twitter commentary, once dubbing Joe Biden’s relationship with his son Hunter “creepy.” A former Newsmax TV host, Cardillo is prominent enough on the right to recently dine at the Florida governor’s mansion with potential 2024 contender Ron DeSantis.

But Cardillo has a little-known second job as an arms dealer operating in the former Eastern bloc, selling ammunition and body armor under the name M42 Tactical from his Fort Lauderdale home. According to a recently filed lawsuit, he doesn’t always deliver and now stands accused of stiffing Ukraine’s embattled government on a delivery of almost $200,000 in body armor.

In court papers, the company describes itself as an importer and wholesaler of “rifle and handgun ammunition.” On its website, the company touts its access to Serbian and Russian-made small arms ammunition.

(After this story was published, Cardillo informed The Daily Beast that his website was incorrect and his company has never sold Russian-made bullets.)

For Florida resident Michael Bogachek, those credentials made M42 Tactical a natural fit for a contract in the weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine. The Ukrainian-born Bogachek was shocked by tales of Russian atrocities committed during the first days of the war, and wanted to support his homeland. According to Bogachek, Cardillo said he could obtain body armor from Serbia and send it to Ukraine.

On March 11, Bogachek contracted with Cardillo’s company to buy 250 body-armor kits capable of withstanding an AK-47 shot for $196,250 and deliver them to the Ukrainian police. M42 Tactical promised to deliver it to the Ukrainian police by April 20, according to an invoice.

By late May, though, the body armor still had not reached Ukraine, according to court papers filed by Bogachek. On May 27, Bogachek sued Cardillo and his company in Florida.The suit alleged that the conservative pundit had made off with his nearly $200,000 payment, leaving Ukrainian police officers without the protection he purchased for them.

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Cardillo claimed in a court filing that he couldn’t fulfill the order because Bogachek couldn’t provide an end-user certificate, a legal document often required in the arms trade to ensure that weapons or armor will go to their intended destination.

Bogachek’s lawyer, José M. Ferrer, disputed that defense, pointing out that the invoice doesn’t mention an “end-user certificate.” The invoice states that “end to end logistics” were already included in the order price, which Ferrer argues means includes the price of any end-user certificate.

“We will be pursuing vigorous discovery to find out how M42 actually used the money,” Ferrer told The Daily Beast.

Cardillo’s lawyers fired back, claiming that he met his contractual obligations. In their telling, the body armor exists and has been waiting at the manufacturer’s loading dock for months.

“Mr. Cardillo has been asking Mr. Bogachek for over six months to provide a final delivery address and End User Certificate,” Cardillo’s lawyers, Tom Mersch and Dennis Klein, said in a statement.

The lawyers representing the former Newsmax host went on in their statement to reiterate the claim that Bogachek has failed to provide the necessary paperwork.

“As a result, Ukrainians go without protection that could have and should have reached them months ago,” the statement said. “The fault for THAT rests firmly on the shoulders (and conscience) of Mr. Bogachek and his attorney Mr. Ferrer.”

“We intend to vigorously defend our client from these baseless allegations,” they concluded.

M42 Tactical is facing other financial issues. The arms company sued one of its suppliers in a New York federal court last month, alleging that the supplier had botched a September 2021 deal, costing M42 Tactical a $47 million contract for 180 million bullets and even causing “the global destabilization of the ammunition market.”

This isn’t the first time Cardillo or a business he owns or controls has ended up in court after allegedly failing to meet his business obligations.

In 2015, Cardillo, a former New York Police Department officer, was incensed by comments film director Quentin Tarantino made about police during a rally in New York City. Cardillo and a former ex-NYPD officer agreed to split the $17,500 cost of a tabloid ad calling on Tarantino to change his views about police by going on a ride-along. But Cardillo’s partner later accused the radio host of stiffing him on his share of the bill for the ad, successfully suing Cardillo for a final judgment for $10,803.76.

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In 2016, iHeartMedia sued a business owned by Cardillo for $16,274.28 in debts related to his talk radio show. The radio giant won the case, and eventually secured a writ garnishing the Cardillo business’ bank accounts until the judgment was paid.

Then Cardillo wouldn’t pay his own lawyer in the iHeartMedia case, according to a lawsuit filed by his lawyer. That attorney then turned on his one-time client and sued Cardillo himself in 2017 for unpaid legal bills worth $8,684.83. The outcome of that case is unclear—as of November 2021, the lawyer was struggling to serve Cardillo with court papers.

“iHeart’s attorney and our attorney, we never filed a response because iHeart owed us some money for clips they were using,” Cardillo told The Daily Beast. “Their attorney agreed with us. They actually owned us a little more than we owed them. We decided to just wash our hands of each other and call it a day.”

In tweets to his nearly 300,000 Twitter followers, Cardillo often alludes to trips to Serbia, which he describes as a hotbed of MAGA sentiment. In February, he tweeted that “a bunch of millennials” in a Serbian bar bought him shots of alcohol before toasting in former President Donald Trump’s honor.

While Cardillo cut a deal to provide armor to the Ukrainian government, he’s been less than supportive of the embattled country in the past. As Russian troops massed on Ukraine’s border in February, Cardillo tweeted that he “couldn’t care less” whether Russia invaded.

“Just send us their hot women and call it a day,” Cardillo wrote.

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