By TOM TOPOUSIS
May 29, 2008 -- The mystery man behind the looting of a Bronx charity to finance the startup of liberal radio network Air America was arrested yesterday in Guam.
Evan Montvel-Cohen was picked up by border-patrol officers at Guam International Airport on an outstanding warrant from Hawaii. He had been indicted there last month for money laundering and the theft of more than $60,000 from a Honolulu landscaping firm, prosecutors said.
"We at DOI are not surprised to hear that Mr. Montvel-Cohen was arrested on theft and money-laundering charges," said Rose Gill Hearn, commissioner of the city's Department of Investigation, which probed the looting of the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club in Co-op City.
It was Montvel-Cohen who, as development director for Gloria Wise, convinced other club officials in 2003 and 2004 to give $875,000 of taxpayer money to the radio network where he was a top executive and co-founder.
He also received loans from the club of more than $45,000 that were never repaid.
Montvel-Cohen, 43, was never charged here, but two other directors at Gloria Wise pleaded guilty to misappropriating $1.2 million, some of which was used for personal expenses for club officials, including cars and home renovations.
The $875,000 was repaid by Air America only after DOI launched a wide-ranging probe into the transfer of city and state funds meant to help children and the elderly in the northeast Bronx.
But DOI was never able to speak with Montvel-Cohen, who invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself, Hearn said.
"As DOI's 2006 report into fraud at the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls Club showed, he was indeed someone of interest to us because of his pivotal role in the transfer of hundreds of thousands of dollars of Gloria Wise funds to a start-up commercial radio station," she said.
DOI has no immediate plans to pursue Montvel-Cohen.
Jim Fulton, a spokesman for the Honolulu city prosecutor, said Montvel-Cohen ripped off the landscaping company by using the firm's credit cards to pay for $30,000 of hotel and travel expenses.
He's also charged with stealing another $30,000 - money he claimed he used to pay the company's state excise taxes, but pocketed instead.
Cohen, who returned to his native Guam after bolting from Hawaii, was returning from the Philippines when the outstanding warrant was discovered.
Fulton said Montvel-Cohen has returned to the broadcast business, working for Sorensen Media Group, owned by his pal Rex Sorensen, one of the original Air America founders.
Sorensen and Montvel-Cohen operate several TV and radio outlets in the Pacific Islands.
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