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August 1, 2005
The Continuing Scandal At Air America

The New York Sun takes on the Air America story today and advances it by leaps and bounds, talking with the president of the non-profit which had its money taken by Air America founder Evan Cohen. It turns out that Cohen didn't just get money for the netlet, but also managed to get plenty for his own pockets as well while sitting on the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club board:

Initially, members of the executive committee viewed Mr. Cohen fondly because he had thrown a tremendously successful fund-raising affair for Gloria Wise in Manhattan last year. They recalled being impressed by the wealthy clientele and the large sums of money he raised, according to Ms. Graves.

Because of that confidence in Mr. Cohen, she said, the executive committee approved two loans to Air America, one for $80,000 and another for $87,000.

Ms. Capell said she had met Mr. Cohen several times.

"He was very suave, a very wonderful young man. He left a very favorable impression," she said in a telephone interview.

After the initial two loans, Ms. Graves said that just before the launch of Air America her organization lent the network another $213,000, authorized with a rubber stamp of her signature on a document she said she never saw. More recently, Ms. Graves said, Gloria Wise made a wire transfer of at least $400,000 to Air America without her knowledge.

In addition, according to Ms. Graves, the longtime executive director of Gloria Wise, Charles Rosen, later told the board he had lent an additional $35,000 of the organization's funds to Mr. Cohen for medical expenses. According to Ms. Capell, the board member, Mr. Cohen told Mr. Rosen he needed $25,000 to pay for chemotherapy. Mr. Cohen told associates that he recovered from brain cancer, according to Ms. Capell. Later, Mr. Cohen asked for $10,000 - which he was lent - be cause his father, a businessman in Asia, was "gravely ill," Ms. Capell said.

Ms. Graves said that she knew of the personal loans to Mr. Cohen, but that she thought they were taken from Mr. Rosen's personal discretionary budget, "not the agency's."

Now we have potential wire fraud, forgery, and fraud by deception, and probably a host of other potential charges against Mr. Cohen for his actions with Gloria Wise and Air America. Ms. Graves also tells the New York Sun that AA has agreed to pay back $800K over the next two years, not just the $480K originally noted by the Bronx News. Fortunately, Gloria Wise remained solvent, despite the wording in Piquant Media's earlier statements which tended to suggest otherwise.

Clearly, though, AA did not pay a dime back before this investigation broke open. Nor did they agree to pay back the illegal transfers immediately, which again underscores their fragile economic status. They still have to meet that payroll, including that of their stars, who apparently don't mind taking their money ahead of what's owed to the poor kids, elderly, and Alzheimers patients served by Gloria Wise.

Michelle Malkin
and Brian Maloney have plenty more on this story, including lots of links to past and present indicators of AA's precarious position. The New York Post also has started to cover the issue, which should garner even more national attention.

One certainty has arisen: this is no "phony" story. Air America had better get out in front of this, and its supporters should stop blaming the blogs for AA's miscreancy and demand that AA resolve the issue forthwith. Two years of dragging out payments for stolen money means two years and more of albatross-dragging for an enterprise that cannot afford any more baggage than it already has.

UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers!

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 1, 2005 6:31 AM

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