The plaintiff’s—Michelle Reinhart, of Missoula, and Jean Price, of Great Falls—claim Mortenson fabricated material details about his activities and work building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan and defrauded charity donors as well as unsuspecting consumers who bought his bestselling book “Three Cups of Tea,” which purports to be a work of non-fiction.
The claims stem from author Jon Krakauer’s investigation of Mortenson and his charity in his book “Three Cups of Deceit,” in which Krakauer accuses Mortenson of lying about and fabricating key parts of his inspirational autobiography.
Great Falls lawyer Alexander “Zander” Blewett, the plaintiffs’ attorney in the case, said the federal class-action lawsuit seeks to disgorge monies Mortenson and the charity obtained fraudulently and give those funds to other charitable organizations to fulfill Central Asia Institute’s purported mission of building schools in impoverished central Asian villages.
“Everything Mortenson has been saying to people to get them to give him money, to buy his books, to donate to his charity, have been massive falsehoods,” Blewett said Friday. “It is apparent that the only way the children in Afghanistan and Pakistan are going to receive the schools promised to them is through this class action. Otherwise Mortenson and his organization will get away with this sham.”
The Central Asia Institute was closed Friday afternoon and a call to the corporation’s Kansas City attorney was not immediately returned.
Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock last month opened an investigation into Mortenson and the charity after a CBS “60 Minutes” broadcast reported that the Central Asia Institute paid for Mortenson’s travel for speaking engagement and book tours even though the charity receives no income from the bestseller.
I’ll update this post later with more information and links.