Media & Communications Law

Judge Tosses Fraud Suit Against 'Three Cups of Tea' Author over Alleged False Claims in Book


book cover

Image courtesy of Viking Press.

Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortenson says his faith in the American justice system has been restored after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit claiming readers were tricked into purchasing his book based on their belief it was true.

Mortenson praised his lawyers for offering “steadfast encouragement to stay positive and keep the high ground,” the Associated Press reports. The ruling “upholds and confirms my belief and faith that our American legal and judicial system is honorable and fair,” he told AP in an email.

U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon dismissed the suit on Monday, according to AP, Reuters and the Christian Science Monitor. The suit claimed the book was held out as a true account of Mortenson’s efforts to promote education for girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan, though it contained fabrications. The aim, the suit claimed, was to “induce unsuspecting individuals” to buy Mortenson’s books and contribute funds to his charity. The complaint had alleged fraud, deceit, racketeering and breach of contract.

Haddon said he dismissed the suit because of the “imprecise, in part flimsy, and speculative nature of the claims and theories advanced” by the plaintiffs. Haddon said the complaint doesn’t say whether the plaintiffs would have purchased the books if they were labeled as fiction, and it’s impossible to ascertain.

Mortenson reached a settlement with the Montana Attorney General last month in which he agreed to repay his charity more than $1 million. A probe had found Mortenson didn’t reimburse the group for travel expenses paid by sponsors, didn’t pay the group promised royalties, and charged personal expenses to the organization.

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