The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

27 May 2008

Air America Founder Evan Montvel-Cohen Arrested In Guam


Law's Long Arm Finally Catches Up To AAR Founder


Until today, Evan Montvel-Cohen must have been feeling downright almighty. After all, the Air America Radio co-founder and former chairman somehow escaped punishment when the shady diversion of taxpayer funds he helped to orchestrate came to the public's attention in 2005.

The bombshell revelations made headlines in New York City, but Evan suddenly seemed to be hiding elsewhere, most likely in Guam or Hawaii, where he has lifelong ties.

As part of the scheme, $875,000 in taxpayer funds were diverted from a Bronx- based youth organization, which were then used to cover the liberal talk radio network's early operations.

Now, sadly, the party's over for Evan. According to Guam's KUAM-TV, he was arrested there upon returning from The Philippines, based on a warrant issued by a judge in Hawaii:

Wanted in the state of Hawaii, the managing director of local media company the Sorensen Media Group was held in custody today after being picked up by authorities at the Guam International Airport Authority earlier today. Accused of money laundering, theft, forgery and much more, Montvel-Cohen appeared in the Superior Court of Guam late this afternoon attempting to be released from custody.

Evan Daniel Montvel-Cohen was on a return flight from Manila, Philippines this morning when he was detained by agents from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol at the A.B. Won Pat International Airport Authority. According to chief prosecutor Phil Tydingco, U.S. Customs agents discovered that Montvel-Cohen had a bench warrant for his arrest in the state of Hawaii. Montvel-Cohen was then turned over to the custody of the Superior Court Marshals where he spent the day in a holding cell awaiting a hearing this afternoon.

Tydingco says the warrant was issued this past April 15 by Judge Derrick H.M. Chan of the 1st Circuit Court of Hawaii. A grand jury in the Aloha State returned an indictment against Montvel-Cohen, charging him with:

- 1st Degree Theft
- Fraudulent Use of Credit Card
- Forgery
- 2nd Degree Theft
- Money Laundering

It's not clear whether any of the charges relate to his tenure with Air America, or if these accusations are part of subsequent potential offenses (far more likely).

Documents filed with the court in Hagatna, Guam do not go into detail regarding Hawaii's complaints. Interestingly, however, Montvel-Cohen still lists a Brooklyn address as his primary residence.

The "progressive" left has long sought to distance themselves from Evan, sometimes by using a onetime connection to a liberal GOP Guam governor as evidence he was really a Republican operative.

That's despite the fact that Montvel-Cohen's ties to liberal Democrats go back many years. In an interview with a Guam- based talk radio station later in 2005, he made it quite clear his leanings were firmly on the left. In addition, early in his Air America tenure, he brought former Clinton Administration insiders into the fold to kick- start the network's operations.

For his part, Al Franken has sought to disavow any connection to the network's founder, calling him a "crook" and refusing to admit that money meant for a children's charity helped cover his outrageous salary demands while at Air America Radio.

In fact, Franken even had the nerve to portray himself as a victim of Montvel-Cohen's when the network began to have financial troubles. Nonetheless, it's doubtful Franken is excited to see his former boss back in the news, especially with his US Senate campaign underway in Minnesota.

In the time since his Air America departure, Montvel-Cohen has apparently managed a Guam- based radio outfit and claims to have been involved with several television ventures in The Philippines. In a 2006 interview, he also claimed to be working with technology firms in New York City.

Meanwhile, the network's ownership shell game has continued, with a consistent murkiness regarding who is really in control of the nation's most high- profile attempt at creating coast-to-coast liberal talk radio.

As for the scandal itself, no one ever faced significant punishment for the crime, despite the best efforts of New York City's Department Of Investigation (DOI).

UPDATE: KUAM TV reports the charges are unrelated to Air America's scandal, but notes this interesting point about the timeline:

The media exec faces a maximum of ten years behind bars for a conviction on one of the theft charges. It's also interesting to note that the dates of the alleged criminal activity are around the same time New York authorities began looking for Montvel-Cohen in connection to more than $800,000 that was taken from the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club in New York, turned over to Montvel-Cohen's Progress Media company, which helped establish the Air America radio network. He was never charged in connection with those particular transactions.

Hawaii's indictment is found here.

FOR New England regional talk radio updates, see our other site.

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Montvel-Cohen image: WSJ
Classic AAR images: David A Lunde For The Radio Equalizer


  • We can only hope Franken is forced to testify under oath.

    By Blogger Carl, at 27 May, 2008 19:02  

  • Yes, it would be sweet to have Franken testify in court about his shady dealings while working the Air America books.

    Things are going to get hotter for Stuart Smalley.

    * The Worker's Compensation Scandal is erurpting again.

    * Franken's financial records prove he owned stock in Halliburton and Exxon while bashing the companies on air.

    * Franken's Playboy column degrading women is getting more publicity.

    * The certified mail receipt sent to his home was fraudulently signed and being investigated.

    Franken is in for a hot summer this year.

    By Blogger The Benson Report, at 27 May, 2008 21:02  

  • - 1st Degree Theft
    - Fraudulent Use of Credit Card
    - Forgery
    - 2nd Degree Theft
    - Money Laundering

    Na na na na! Na na na na! Heeeeeeey! Goood-bye!

    Thanks for the satisfying update, Brian. The only thing better will be a conviction on all counts.

    By Blogger Jason, at 27 May, 2008 23:34  

  • Here is a link to the indictment:

    Looks like it all is related to things he did in Hawaii in 2005. Doesn't appear to be any connection to Air America.

    So I don't think Franken will have to testify about anything under oath, since he doesn't appear to be connected in any way.

    Regarding the other comments, I believe Franken owned a variety of mutual funds, several of which owned Halliburton or Exxon. This is much different than going out and personally buying these individual stocks. Franken's Playboy article was a joke, but it seems many right wing Minnesotans have NO sense of humor.

    By Blogger Ezsuds, at 28 May, 2008 03:52  

  • ezsuds said "it seems many right wing Minnesotans have NO sense of humor."

    I definitely agree that Minnesotans have no sense of humor when it comes to tax cheats who don't pay their income tax in 17 states and then try to scam their way into the Senate. We also don't take lightly to employers, like Franken, who deliberately evaded paying workers’ compensation insurance for his employees.

    Franken's quote: "And as a senator, Norm Coleman has disrespected the people of Minnesota by putting the Exxons and Halliburtons ahead of working families." Source: The Hill, May 22, 2008

    Franken's mutual funds have extensive holdings in Exxon and Halliburton. Looks like Franken had disrepected the people of Minnesota by putting himself ahead of working families.

    Objectifying women and degrading women has been a consistent theme of Al Franken's humor over the years

    Oh, and an excerpt from the Playboy article by Franken, the expert on parental skills:

    He joked "I'm talking, of course, about the Internet, which is a terrific learning tool. For example, a couple years ago, when he was 12, my son used the Internet for a sixth grade report on bestiality. Joe was able to download some effective visual aids, which the other students in his class just loved. See, at that age the kids are sponges!" Source: Al Franken, Playboy, January 2000

    What a joke!

    Franken is a Hollywood slimeball who won't represent Minnesotans in Congress.

    By Blogger The Benson Report, at 28 May, 2008 14:27  

  • So, by paying over 99.5% of the taxes that were due (admittedly much of it to the wrong government entities), totalling over $900,000, this qualifies Franken as a "tax cheat"?

    It's your contention that Franken did not pay Workers comp on purpose, so that it could later be discovered while he runs for Senate? Doesn't sound too logical to me. He had the money, I'm sure if he knew about it in advance, he would have cleared it up prior to making a run for the Senate.

    Regarding Exxon and Halliburton, there is a huge difference between being a Senator, and giving tax breaks to these companies, and owning mutual funds that have some of these stocks in their portfolio. It's not like these companies got any money from Franken's purchase, since they weren't IPO's.

    I think Franken's playboy column, and the Chapter in his book about Chickenhawk Gingrich and the prostitute, are both very funny.

    By Blogger Ezsuds, at 28 May, 2008 19:08  

  • Ezsuds said: "So, by paying over 99.5% of the taxes that were due (admittedly much of it to the wrong government entities), totalling over $900,000, this qualifies Franken as a "tax cheat"?"

    Wow! Your ignorance of tax laws and common sense defies belief.

    1.) Try telling your ludicrous spin to the 17 states Franken stiffed by not paying taxes. If he is so innocent and it is really not a problem, try explaining why he has to pay fines along with his overdue taxes?

    2.) If you really believe he is not a tax cheat, then try to make a logical answer why Minnesotans should elect such a profound ignoramus to write laws if he does not understand his own tax laws.

    Athletes, rock stars, and other professionals who earn income in other states know the laws. But the jerk who wants to be elected to the US Senate pleads ignorance?

    I rest my case. There is no way you can spin a logical legal or ethical response to what Franken has done. Franken is either a lying tax cheat or an idiot. There are a lot of Minnesotans who think he is both. Neither version should be elected to the US Senate.

    And before you jump on the liberal crybaby bandwagon, just because there are other people who have broken a similar law does not make it right that Frankenscofflaw should be elected.

    Slam Dunk!
    Ba da BING!

    By Blogger The Benson Report, at 29 May, 2008 10:43  

  • So this guy ripped off the American tax-payers to fund a failed political venture? Good lord, he could run for President! McCain, we have your #2.


    Will my comment see the light day or is free speech here limited to right-wing talking points? I only ask because I find it hard to believe that no progressive-minded people ever comment on your blog posts. Did Putin guest lecture for your journalism class?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 29 May, 2008 21:35  

  • The Benson report said " Franken is either a lying tax cheat or an idiot." I don't believe either to be true. He hired a professional accounting agency to do his taxes. The accountant did the taxes incorrectly, and Franken will have to pay interest on any back taxes due.

    Regarding Franken's knowledge of tax laws, and his ability to write tax laws being a prerequisite to being elected. I don't think that only corporate tax accountants are eligible to run for the Senate. I guess I must have missed that requirement.

    If paying 99.5% of the taxes that should have been paid allows one to be labeled a "tax cheat" I bet there are tens of millions of tax cheats in the country.

    By Blogger Ezsuds, at 30 May, 2008 01:41  

  • Ezsuds made another lame attempt to legitimize the tax cheat, Al Franken by saying: Regarding Franken's knowledge of tax laws, and his ability to write tax laws being a prerequisite to being elected. I don't think that only corporate tax accountants are eligible to run for the Senate. I guess I must have missed that requirement.

    If that is your logic, then you missed a lot more than just common sense.

    You like to repeat your naive and childish excuses to support Stuart Smalley instead of accepting the truth. Are you on Franken's embarrassed and faltering campaign team?

    Franken is trying to dismiss accusations that he is evading paying back taxes as merely partisan attacks. Try telling that to the 17 states who are fining him as a penalty for his failure to pay.

    If professional sports players know the basic tax rule to pay the state where they earned the money, then that speaks stongly to the lack of basic intelligence exhibited by a man who thought he could become a US Senator. Using your logic, Basketball players and World Wrestling Federation actors are smarter than Franken. I, along with many other Minnesotans, disagree. He is a liar.

    Franken’s campaign has received many well-deserved setbacks this year. Revelations that he owed $25,000 to the State of New York for failing to pay workers’ compensation insurance; his refusal to answer numerous letters from the state of New York; and that his corporation was in forfeiture in California for failing to pay franchise tax fees for 4 years, and owed nearly $5,000.

    He has no legitimate explanation why the efforts of New York state and a collection agency had been unable to reach him; one of the country's most high-profile comedians.

    Franken clearly isn't telling the full story. He should write an autobiographical sequel to his 2003 book "Lies (And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them)".

    Franken has made a career out of attacking people for failing to live up to their obligations, yet here he not only failed to abide by the rules, but lied about it.

    By Blogger The Benson Report, at 31 May, 2008 09:51  

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