Honolulu Advertiser (May 29, 2009): Evan Montvel-Cohen, a Guam media executive who co-founded the liberal national radio network Air America, pleaded no contest in Circuit Court yesterday to a charge of first-degree theft....His no-contest plea was part of a bargain with prosecutors who agreed to dismiss other charges of credit card fraud, forgery, money laundering and second-degree theft....
MUGSHOT: Criminal Evan Montvel-Cohen, founder of Air America
Montvel-Cohen had been accused of stealing more than $62,000 from a Waimanalo landscaping firm, Ultimate Innovations, where he worked as a business manager in 2005.
(THIS WILL BE THE ONLY TIME COHEN HAS FACED JUSTICE FOR ANY PART OF HIS ALLEGED MULTI-STATE, MULTI-YEAR CRIME SPREE--BUT CHECK OUT THIS NEXT LINE....)
Montvel-Cohen may ask Lee for a deferred acceptance of the no contest plea, a legal mechanism that would result in no criminal record if he stays trouble-free for a specified period of court supervision. "It's a reasonable resolution to the case," said defense lawyer Todd Eddins.
Air America, which featured comedian and now-politician Al Franken as its best-known host, was launched in 2004, with financing that included more than $800,000 from a nonprofit boys and girls club in New York where Montvel-Cohen was employed as development director.
That investment, as well as loans that Montvel-Cohen received from the club, were the subject of a criminal investigation by New York City officials, but he was never charged with an offense.
After leaving New York in 2004, Montvel-Cohen began working at Ultimate Innovations here in February 2005. He returned to Guam in 2006.
NY Sun: Network's Former Chairman Is Missing
Background From The Radio Equalizer (May 27, 2008):
EVAN UN-ALMIGHTY: 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
- 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.