Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Former Air America exec Evan Montvel Cohen arrested

Former Air America Radio chairman Evan Montvel Cohen, a controversial figure from the network's early days, has been arrested on theft and fraud charges, KUAM-TV reports.

The media executive was returning from Manila when he was arrested at Guam's airport. He was picked up on a warrant from Hawaii for charges including theft, credit card fraud, forgery, and money laundering. He was placed under house arrest after posting a $75,000 bond. An extradition hearing is set for June 27th.

Many people remember Cohen as one of the primary figures behind the start-up of Air America. Only problem was, his ambitions were bigger than his financial backing. Cohen and his partner, fellow Guam media mogul Rex Sorenson, formed a company called Progress Media and purchased the soon-to-launch network from Sheldon and Anita Drobny. They also brought in other investors to complete Progress Media's board.

Cohen and Sorenson misled the network's other investors into believing that they had more money than they really did, and checks started bouncing and debts began escalating. By May, both Cohen and Sorenson were forced out of Air America by Progress Media's other investors.

The remaining executives reorganized the company as Piquant, LLC, and set out to pick up the pieces and get the struggling debt-ridden network back on track. But Cohen's legacy returned to haunt them a few months later. Turns out that, in the capacity of his executive position at the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club in the Bronx, Cohen acquired loans from the nonprofit in order to help fulfil his share of the investment. His former partners in Air America were livid. The network's marquee host, Al Franken, even blasted Cohen on the air.

Of course, right-wing bloggers with an axe to grind against the network went ballistic when news of this scandal emerged (in perhaps the only instance of them even giving a rip about an inner city community center). More recently, they have even tried to tarnish former host and current Senate candidate Al Franken with the scandal, though as merely an on-air personality, he was kept out of the loop, and was unaware of the whole controversy until it hit the news media.

Piquant, assuming responsibility for the loan, agreed to cooperate with law enforcement authorities to repay the Gloria Wise center, an amount estimated to be about $875,000. After making some repayments and putting much of the rest in escrow, in compliance with city officials and New York's Attorney General, the entire loan was repayed by September 2006.

There have been no further details released regarding the extent of Cohen's current charges, and it appears that they are not connected with Air America. If convicted, Cohen faces up to 10 years in prison.


@whut said...

If anyone wants to see Evan Cohen in action, watch the documentary "Left of the Dial", about the early days of AAR. There is a fitting scene of him taking a cab as he leaves the premises for good, gabbing on the phone as it drives away .. presumably setting up his next mark.

will_in_chicago said...

LTR, check your e-mail. I sent you links to a few follow up stories.

Here is a link to a thread on the Unfiltered News Network on this story. (Apparently, Blogger wants me to create a bog in order to add links, but I don't need one as I have one at UNN.)


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