Elsewhere online
May 09, 2011

Lawsuit Alleges Fraud by 'Three Cups' Author

Two legislators from Greg Mortenson's home state of Montana are taking the author and nonprofit leader to court over alleged fabrications in his best-selling memoir Three Cups of Tea, the Los Angeles Times and The Daily Beast report.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court, the state representatives, Michele Reinhart and Jean Price, allege that Mr. Mortenson and his Central Asia Institute fraudulently earned profits and solicited donations based on claims about his experiences in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Investigations by “60 Minutes” and the author Jon Krakauer have cast doubt on those claims and raised questions about the institute's finances.

The lawmakers are asking the court to grant them class-action status, which if granted could expose Mr. Mortenson and the charity to liability for millions of dollars in donations and book revenue. They ask that damages arising from the case be placed in a trust and used to build schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Central Asia Institute's stated mission.

A spokeswoman for the institute said it welcomed the chance to respond to the accusations in a neutral setting such as the courts.

The most important lesson from the Three Cups scandal isn't about mismanagement but about the futility of making school-construction a charity's mission, according to online magazine Slate.

Slate writer Annie Lowrey notes reports that dozens of Central Asia Institute-built schools are little-used and have not received continued support from the charity. “Throwing up structures is simple. Educating children is a much more complex, expensive, and necessary goal,” she says.