Tax Law

Montana AG to Probe Charity Portrayed in ‘Three Cups of Tea’

The charity portrayed in the book Three Cups of Tea is under investigation after a 60 Minutes report alleged its founder, Greg Mortenson, exaggerated his achievements and used charity money to promote his books.

Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock says news reports have spurred him to investigate Mortenson’s charity, the Central Asia Institute, according to Reuters and the Associated Press.“While looking into this issue, my office will not jump to any conclusions—but we have a responsibility to make sure charitable assets are used for their intended purposes,” Bullock said.

The 60 Minutes program alleged Mortenson was using the Central Asia Institute to promote his books, even though the charity receives no income from publication sales. The institute builds schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but it spends more money promoting the importance of its mission than on actual construction, the report said.

Author John Krakauer, who investigated the charity along with 60 Minutes, says Mortenson’s story about stumbling into the village of Korphe in Pakistan after mountain climbing is a “myth,” the Associated Press reports. Mortenson said the experience led him to begin building schools in the region.

“Mortenson has lied about the noble deeds he has done, the risks he has taken, the people he has met, the number of schools he has built,” Krakauer wrote in Three Cups of Deceit.

Mortenson was recently admitted to the hospital for a heart ailment, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. He has said an audit by an outside law firm found he did nothing wrong, but it recommended changes to partially separate him from the charity. The firm also said he might have violated Internal Revenue Service regulations about excess benefits.

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