Mendo Island News Service
From BETH BOSK
Anybody besides me had it with John Sakowicz.?!! (And KZYX/Z for that matter for giving such a known charlatan so much air time, while disallowing any measured challenge to his authenticity.)
Sakowicz was here in the early 1990s, too busy identity-thefting the Mendocino Youth Projects’ website for his own gain, talking himself into the foremanship of the Mendocino County grand jury (by posing as a “retired attorney”–then immediately signing the Grand Jury’s training check over to himself) to do anything as sturdy as joining the earnest collaboration to keep then healthy forests standing.
John circuitously engineered himself into ‘The Truth About Money’ show by claiming to be “the founder and manager of a multi-billion dollar offshore hedge fund”, hinting during those dire months of $100,000 debt, that he would create a hedge fund trust for KZYX. Sakowicz has managed to climb up the alternative media ladder because no one with say-so in media had bothered to vet him, or as in the case of John Coate and KZYX/Z news director Paul Hanson, didn’t care… When I repeatedly asked to do a one-hour special on Sacowicz’s climb up the ladder (any ladder) through saturated volunteerism, Coate said he didn’t like my tone. When Christina Aanestad inched toward the story, he ordered her to stay away from it.
It’s a disgrace. Sakowicz has become the most prominent public face of KZYX/Z; attending to his own fledgling financial dealies on both his Friday morning public affairs show and his too regular input on the local news; while someone as earnest and authentically representative of her peers as Johanna Schultz has been capriciously kicked off the air for “insubordination”, for standing up for the free speech, Constitutionally protected rights of the new breed of conscientious, politically and spiritually involved and motivated hip hop artists, who in the long tradition of American rebels and revolutionaries have reclaimed portions of the language as acts of political action. After eight years in the small, cold, satellite studio in Mendocino, deliberately choosing to broadcast during the late night ‘Safe Harbor’ hours, so she would not have to censor the genre, Johanna’s program was cancelled in a one sentence hem and hawed message left on her answering machine by Mary Aigner. And, without being informed, she was immediately kicked off the programmers listserve, to try to sever her from her radioland colleagues.
The chair Judi sat in was replaced years ago. As was the ethos that put her there. Below is an editorial I wrote for New Settler Interview last summer, followed by two of the articles re. Sakowicz published in The Boston Globe. There’s more, of course; there always is.
From BETH BOSK
New Settler Interview issue 147 summer 2009
I’m going to start with a story about Judi Bari.
When Judi’s car was bombed in Oakland and she, immediately blamed by the Oakland police and FBI, then taken, barely conscious, to the jail unit of a local hospital where she was shackled; the call went out for a 24 hour a day vigil at the hospital. So many folks from Mendocino County answered that call, broadcast and updated daily on KZYX (almost 20 years gone by, only two seasons on the air) that the FBI came to the station and told manager, Sean Donovan the station would lose it’s new license if it broadcast any information about Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney other than that provided in FBI releases.
This really happened. A memo was attached to the large glass in the studio, prohibiting updates from activists in Oakland and any calls to assemble at the vigil, a vigil that in effect was keeping Judi safe and alive.
I was the sole daytime public affairs programmer at the station; a DJ called me when the Memo went up and asked me what should be done: a new phone update had just come in from Earth First!.
‘Tear it down,” I told the programmer. “That’s prior restraint”- a phrase I had picked up less than a fortnight before. “They can’t redact what you say before you say it.”
That was the end of FBI interference with the tremendous outpouring of support for Judi.
KZYX/Z General Manager John Coate has gone rooting in the FCC rule book and arbitrarily discontinued opportunities for listeners to call into the morning public affairs shows with announcements of quick-reaction rallies and actions, requests for communiqués to government agencies relevant to the issues that are always stunningly in our faces, and often enough alleviated by local outcry.
The great loss is access to the Monday morning Reality Show. But there have been secondary consequences: the dullness of one voice sing-songing a list of scheduled events to elevator music. Another is an insidious reduction in open line contact with the guests and hosts of the public affairs programming. It began last year with the closure of the lines to ‘The Truth About Money’, where there has been no opportunity to either probe or challenge John Sacowicz’s wild claims of say, teleconferencing with the Obama Economic team during the Transition period-or anything he says about himself-and no opportunity for locals to engage in brief dialog with his guests. The reasons for closing of the lines changed as Sacowicz moved from Jay Johnson’s Ukiah Valley studio to the Philo quarters with lines galore. What hasn’t changed is the listeners remain locked out.
When I sit down and write this story for New Settler, it will be cast as a modern day morality tale: as to how one benighted charlatan vaulted up the progressive media ladder. And how there began to develop a pivotal construct: the ethically opposite responses to the same sensational information re. John Sacowicz by the two most crucial of the alt-media swept up in his scams.
Two regional media: one a weekly lifestyle tabloid; the other a 24/7 public radio station with an hour slotted for local news.
One media, entrepreneurial. The other, non-profit, member supported.
One compiled by a seasoned, understaffed journalist. The other managed by a GM with no prior radio experience, who got the job at the urging of his buddy, a member of the KZYX/Z Board of Directors; its news department passed into the hands of a fool who came to the station a complete stranger, and was given unitary power over the local newscast.
When I called Gretchen Giles, the editor of the North Bay Bohemian, to tell her I was working on a story of how it was that a con man (John Sakowicz, in this case) could so swiftly rise up the progressive media ladder- the Bohemian, Ukiah Valley TV, our NPR-affiliate KZYX/Z (the bi-weekly morning program, promptly sprawling into a nightly gig jawboning Wall Street with the news director); Free Speech Radio, a post on the Institute for Public Accuracy, Al Jezeera. Sirius Radio the latest tit-for-tat; The Colbert Report the next gleam in his eye- without ever having Sakowicz’s totally fabricated wealth and work history seriously vetted. I informed Gretchen of the content of a series of Boston Globe stories; AND-just as starters-the inconsistency of Sacowicz’s most recent job in Mendocino County as a corrections officer at the Mendocino County jail, with his having founded and managed a multi-billion dollar offshore hedge fund he was still claiming extant, Gretchen Giles gasped, opened up her computer, went straight to the search words that brought up the Boston Globe series.
In 1992, the Boston Globe, published 12 articles involving Sacowicz; beginning with his nine month volunteer stint as the associate director of a Massachusetts state Republican fundraising group called Commonwealth Business Council, where his task was to shake down minority vendors doing business with the state, as well as solicit donations from business executives with promises of access to Weld administration officials from lists provided by the Republican governor’s staff.
John Sacowicz worked those many months as a full-time volunteer for the fundraising operation with the expectation of a paying job when it was over. One article reported a Letter of Recommendation (written months before the scandal broke) in which two state Republican leaders “praised Sacowicz’s fund-raising to a Colorado businessman who was hiring fund-raisers for a Republican candidate for the US Senate.” This was one of four recommendations from top-ranking state Republicans John accrued for his search for a paying position. It was only when no job came of it, that Sacowicz opted for the notoriety as a “whistle blower,” and himself went to the Boston Globe.
Frank Philips the chief investigative reporter dug further and found a $20,000 civil suit filed in Baltimore; several fellow investors in an investment club claimed Sacowicz had embezzled $20,000. Sakowicz admitted to the embezzlement charges, and excused himself by telling Phillips, he was a cocaine addict then. “Back when I was an active addict, I had no moral judgment,” the Boston Globe reports Sacowicz saying. “That was 10 years ago. Since that time, I have asked for a lot of people’s forgiveness. . .
My credibility as a person in recovery is strong, unshakable.”
It is during this period of “unshakable recovery” while he was immersed full-time in volunteer work (two years all-told , counting the year in the office of the governor’s chief secretary, from which he was ousted) that Sacowicz now claims in his several Internet profiles, that he was co-founding and managing Battle Mountain Research Group, a multibillion dollar offshore hedge fund headquartered in the Grand Caymans.
But it was also the decade Sacowicz/Sacowitz was masquerading as a gay man with HIV AIDs (which he has done several times since, for monetary gain); in this case, the Boston Globe reported Sacowicz disappeared a $12,000 grant for a special housing program for people living with AIDS. Sacowicz claimed he used the money to set up a network of privately owned “safe houses” whose owners took in homeless AIDs patients. The lawyer who did legal work for the social service agency where Sakowicz was hired as shelter director, told the Globe “he was never able to give any accounting for the funds.”
What is on the record is a job as a motel desk clerk on the east coast, a campgrounds manager at Pikes Peak, and a jailer in Mendocino County. It appears that for much of his adult life, John Sacowicz has been often a vagabond and near broke.
The response of the editor of the North Bay Bohemian to the Boston Globe series was shock and outrage; immediate recognition of how her experience connected; an openness and a willingness to organize the always scarce resources of the regional press in tandem. To disclose this information about a columnist whose career she’d unwittingly launched. Doing so while working her way through the blocks and filters of a media chain.
While Arcata attorney, Steve Schectman, John Sacowicz’s new co-host on ‘The Truth About Money’-and non-disclosed business associate in a recently registered LLC bond fund, Templar Advisors; the papers were registered from Schectman’s law offices, the same address as Vicilla, LLC: the forestland-conversion-into- large-marijuana-farms-with-bulldozers limite liability corporation Schectman formerly served as president and chief legal officer-until his partner, the son of a former Humboldt County Supervisor, was indicted by the feds.
Schectman barraged Giles with insinuations of a SLAPP suit (the sole purpose of a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation is to chill citizens, often journalists, from exercising their Constitutionally protected speech; punishing those who have done so; chilling further reportage: often characterizing it as Libel or Malice or Gossip) if she so much as dropped John Sacowicz as a columnist. For without the prestige of the North Bay Bohemian to point to, Sacowicz and Schectman would lose their foremost media platform, the underpinning of the business plan. And they panicked when Gretchen showed signs of unraveling Sacowicz’s deceits. Not only was she checking backwards on his past employment, she was thrusting forward, contacting the IPA, this most prominent of Progressive Speakers bureaus. From his Washington, D.C., office, IPA communications director Sam Hussein told Giles: “We didn’t do a background check. He’s a self-nominated expert; most on our roster come to us through recommendations. People who knock on our door are an extreme minority. I checked with [IPA founder] Norman Solomon and he had words for praise for The Bohemian. I sent a few of Sakowicz’s articles to economists for the content-is this guy saying reasonable things? They said yeah, he was.”
Gretchen Giles is a seasoned, understaffed journalist who has a staff of 1 1/2 employees. Her Nexis/Lexis was reduced to California searches. How she knitted together an investigative team is its own movie. More than anyone, Gretchen Giles knows how reflective of the state of journalism in this nation is this morality tale. She’s the editor of a weekly tabloid that covers two counties. She supplements the work of her “staff” with rotating columnists with engaging writing styles about matters their resumes appear to verify. The Boston Globe set five investigative reporters loose on their multi-part series investigating the Commonwealth Business Council scandal in 1992. And now, all those desks are empty.
If you want local news in newsprint these days, you got to go to the regional tabloids. Hank Sims up in Humboldt County behind the editor’s desk at North Coast Journal, me in my virtual log cabin, Bruce Anderson and his new Columbia School of Journalism trained reporter.
What you are going to get in a lifestyle tabloid these days is a combination of good blogging, and knowledgeable columnists doing news.
That’s how, the hosts of “The Truth About Money”, a benighted charlatan and a crafty lawyer launched a clever business plan while passing themselves off as the next flavor of The Power of the People ready to Lead the Assault on the Bastille (in their own words.)
How Sakowicz vaults up the progressive media ladder. Along his way acquiring gullible, but well-placed and stubborn cohorts. How that rise up the media ladder, that comfort zone created in the minds of progressive audiences, becomes the crucial element for an edgy (potentially) multi-billion dollar, off-shore, western-centric, Muslim-like bond fund.
John passed himself off to the editor of the Bohemian as a Sonoma County hedge fund manager, the former national sales manager for futures and commodities at Dean Witter blah, blah, blah. He was full of decisive Wall Street shop talk. Giles contracted him to write an occasional column for a $100 honorarium. In exchange, John wanted a Bohemian email address and his own Extension # on their phone. He had the honorariums made out to his teen-age stepson who he passed off as his intern, and to a “research assistant” who turned out to be one of his daughters. By having the honorariums made out in their names, he avoided providing the Bohemian with his Social Security number. Even when the hunches tickled, Gretchen was
unable to verify his past employments.
As soon as Gretchen Giles understood the depth of Sacowicz’s deception she canceled the email account he had set up at the Bohemian, cut off the extension he had insisted upon because (said he) SEC regs prohibited him from using his office phone. She pulled all his past columns from the Bohemian website. By persistent sleuthing, she discovered his important international hedge fund job at the United Bank Switzerland was a stint as an “Unregistered Trainee”: There’s no evidence he, ever passed a necessary Series 7 test on first try. . .
KZYX/Z General Manager John Coate has refused to allow this story to be aired. I’m looking for folks who want to move KZYX away from it’s top-down, turf-driven corporate structure towards a round-table approach to programming and management…
[Libel is based on lies. Sometimes on unsubstantiated truths. I have documents pertaining to everything I claim re. John Sakowicz. I try real hard not to go on and on and on. -Beth]
KEY FIGURE IN GOP FUND-RAISING FLAP HAS CHECKERED JOB PAST
By Teresa M. Hanafin, Boston Globe Staff
John Sakowicz, the former Republican fund-raiser who has alleged that appointed officials of the Weld administration engaged in improper, and possibly illegal, fund-raising for the party, was fired from two jobs in the late 1980s and was asked to leave a third. Sakowicz defends his past as the result of his ”willingness to butt heads” over the issue of detection and treatment of AIDS patients. But a lawyer in Gloucester who defended an agency that fired Sakowicz has raised questions about a $12,000 state grant Sakowicz acknowledges receiving from the Executive Office of Communities and Development in 1988 for a special housing program for people with AIDS.
Sakowicz says he used the money to rent office space in an industrial park in Gloucester, and to set up a network of privately owned “safe houses” whose owners took in homeless AIDS patients.
But the lawyer, Miles Schlichte, who did legal work for a social service agency where Sakowicz worked as shelter director, said he and others who knew Sakowicz doubted that he ever used the money for AIDS work.
“I don’t know of any AIDS committee that he in fact had or that performed any services,” he said. “He never could give any accounting of what happened to those funds.”
Sakowicz said that over the course of five years, he placed about 30 AIDS patients in 10 different private residences whose owners agreed to house the patients for a fee. He declined to provide the names or addresses of the homeowners involved, because he said the program was very controversial and the homeowners could suffer reprisals from neighbors upset that AIDS patients were living in their midst.
Sakowicz was fired in 1989 from his job at the Gloucester social services agency, Action Inc., for writing competing grant proposals for his own AIDS agency at the same time that he was employed to write grants for Action, says Schlichte. Schlichte also said that Sakowicz did not tell Action officials that he was soliciting grants on behalf of his own AIDS corporation. Schilchte also charged that Sakowicz publicly criticized Action for not caring for more AIDS patients.
Sakowicz admitted he solicited grants for the AIDS corporation, but insisted he did notify Action officials. “I asked Action to submit the AIDS proposal, because they were a bigger, older organization with a greater likelihood of getting the grant,” he said. “But they were a conservative agency, and an AIDS program would have been pretty progressive at that time.”
Sakowicz said he really was fired because he encouraged AIDS patients attending a methadone clinic to use the Action agency’s shelter — to the chagrin of agency officials who felt they couldn’t handle the AIDS patients.
“Action was a traditional homeless shelter, with neither the facilities nor the medical expertise to properly service AIDS patients on a long-term basis,” Schlichte said. “They certainly accepted them overnight, but that wasn’t enough for John. He was constantly running to the press and proclaming himself as the savior of all those afflicted with AIDS, and complaining bitterly about Action and how they didn’t appreciate his efforts on behalf of people with AIDS.”
Sakowicz denied Schlichte’s allegations.
“The problem with Gloucester was that I was trying to do AIDS work in a backwater community and they couldn’t handle it,” he said. “A community like Gloucester epitomized the worst of the ‘not in my backyard’ attitude. It’s better now, but it has had a history of fighting new ideas.”
The Gloucester Daily Times reported yesterday that within six months of his firing by Action, Sakowicz was fired from another job he held as night watchman for the Twin Light Manor in Goucester. A former Twin Light Manor employee told the Gloucester newspaper that Sakowicz was fired for poor job performance. But Sakowicz said the motel simply didn’t like the fact that he received AIDS-related mail at the motel because it was bad for business.
Sakowicz is the former associate director of the now-defunct Commonwealth Business Council, a fund-raising arm of the Massachusetts Republican Party that solicited memberships from companies with the promise of access to officials in the administration of Gov. Weld.
Although state law prohibits appointed officials from soliciting campaign contributions, several Weld administration officials attended meetings of the council. They now say they were not aware that the meetings were fund-raising events.
Those meetings now are being investigated by the attorney general’s office, and Sakowicz has angered GOP party regulars by cooperating with the press and by turning over his records from the Commonwealth Business Council to the Democratic Party.
Weld administration officials have characterized Sakowicz as a disgruntled person who was turned down for a position in the Weld administration.
When he left Gloucester, where he worked from August of 1986 to mid-1989, Sakowicz became head of AIDS Project in Worcester, but left after a year because he felt that the appointment of a Catholic nun to chair the agency’s board constituted a conflict of interest.
“The Catholic Church is against homosexuality, against the distribution of condoms, and against counseling HIV-positive women about abortion,” Sakowicz said. “We were always at loggerheads behind the scenes. I felt I just couldn’t work under those circumstances.”
His next stop was the Cape Cod AIDS Council in Hyannis, where he stayed just six months. He said the agency ran out of money to pay him.
But the Gloucester paper reported that an employee of the agency said Sakowicz was asked to leave because he was inept at fund-raising and other duties.
When asked about the allegation, Sakowicz admitted he was asked to leave, but said he was already off the payroll when the request was made. As for the reason why, he said that the agency disagreed with his view that the state should institute some type of limited mandatory AIDS testing of sex offenders, prostitutes and repeat IV drug abusers, and try to trace those who could have contracted the deadly disease from these groups.
In fact, he said, he had suggested such a program to then-gubernatorial candiate Weld, whom Sakowicz had decided to support when Francis X. Bellotti lost the Democratic primary.
“That position put me at loggerheads with most of the AIDS community in Massachusetts, who see contact tracing and testing as a violation of constitutional rights and an invasion of privacy,” he said.
GOP LEADERS PRAISED CONTROVERSIAL FORMER FUND-RAISER
By Frank Phillips, Boston Globe Staff
State Republican leaders, who are distancing themselves from a party fund- raising operation and denouncing its staff, gave a strong job recommendation to a key operative in the group after it was disbanded and an investigation began into its activities. In a letter to former US Sen. William Armstrong (R-Colo.) the party chairman, Leon Lombardi, and then-executive director, Beth J. Lindstrom, praised John Sakowicz, a former GOP fund-raiser for the Commonwealth Business Council, for the work he did for Massachusetts Republicans. “John is extremely conscientious, a tireless phone caller, and very comfortable with the task of fund-raising,” the two said in the letter they cosigned on party stationery.
The letter, dated Jan. 29, was written several months after the party was forced to disband the council, a fund-raising group that was selling membership fees to business executives with promises of access to top Weld administration officials.
Sakowicz, who served as the council’s unpaid associate director, has told the Globe that he and his colleagues were given access to state agency resources and Weld administration officials as they raised thousands of dollars for the Republican Party.
State law prohibits appointed officials from participating in fund-raising and bans the use of state resources for raising campaign funds. Attorney General Scott Harshbarger is investigating the council’s activities.
Since the Globe has reported on the council’s activities and investigations have intensified, Lombardi and Lindstrom have expressed anger at the council staff for not informing them of the details of their activities.
But in January, both officials expressed strong admiration for Sakowicz’s efforts in helping the GOP raise funds.
“He worked very hard in 1991 to help the Massachusetts Republican Party raise funds from the business community and was very successful at this work,” the two party officials said in the letter to Armstrong.
In another letter, also dated Jan. 29, both officials praised Sakowicz’s fund-raising to a Colorado businessman who was hiring fund-raisers for a Republican candidate for the US Senate.
Alan Safran, the party’s current executive director, said the recommendations written for Sakowicz by Lombardi and Lindstrom are “not glowing.” He said the GOP would “be very happy to see him out of our hair.”
“We would love for him to get a job 2,000 miles outside of Massachusetts,” Safran said.
Sakowicz also got a warm endorsement from Associate US Attorney General Wayne Budd who, on April 10, recommended him for a job as a paralegal in the office of the US Bankruptcy trustee in Boston.
“I recommend Mr. Sakowicz to you without hesitation, qualification, or condition,” Budd, a Republican and former US attorney in Boston, wrote in a letter to the bankruptcy trustee.
At the time the letters were written, the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance had determined that the Commonwealth Business Council’s collection of membership fees and the use of Weld administration officials as featured guests at monthly meetings violated campaign finance laws. The state campaign finance agency is continuing its investigation.
Administration officials and party leaders are now painting Sakowicz as a disgruntled office seeker who had been denied a job in Gov. Weld’s administration. Sakowicz, who is currently unemployed, has said he was never a serious job seeker.
They also point to controversial episodes in his background to try to cast doubt on his credibility.
Sakowicz, 40, is a recovering alcoholic and cocaine addict who worked for some years as a trader and sales manager on the New York stock exchange. He says he has been in recovery for 6 1/2 years.
Sakowicz has also been involved in stormy divorce proceedings. In the mid-1980′s, his wife, Patricia, filed criminal charges for indecent assault involving his daughter. She also filed an abuse complaint with the Department of Social Services. Court charges were dismissed when Sakowicz and his wife got back together. They subsequently had another child, but are now divorced.
In the early 1980s Sakowicz also faced a civil suit in Baltimore when several fellow investors in an investment club claimed he had embezzled $20,000. Sakowicz admits to the charges, saying he was then a cocaine addict.
“Back when I was an active addict, I had no moral judgment,” Sakowicz said. “That was 10 years ago. Since that time, I have asked for a lot of people’s forgiveness.”
“My credibility as a person in recovery is strong, unshakable,” he said.
From Gretchen Giles
On John Sakowicz
Gretchen Giles editorial was published on the North Bay Bohemian website May 6, 2009. It appeared in newsprint that week. Copyright 2009 Metro Newspapers. All rights reserved. The original text was subsequently erased from their website. It is our understanding that the article was removed after attorney Steve Schectman, Sakowicz’s business partner and co-host of ‘The Truth About Money’ continued his threats of a lawsuit if Sakowicz’s column was not reinstated. The following version of the editorial is foreshortened (edited, redacted?) on the advice of the Bohemian attorneys. KC 7-30-09
By Gretchen Giles
Editor of the North Bay Bohemian
Portions deleted – the original version was published May 6, 2009
An avid listener of the Philo-based KZYX&Z-FM, Mendocino Public Broadcasting, Beth Bosk particularly relishes the hour each weekday that the station devotes to Mendocino County news. Recently, however, a full 15 minutes of that hour has been given over to financial reports by a Bohemian contributor of the past year: John Sakowicz.
Increasingly restive that a quarter of the hour was devoted to national news emanating from Wall Street rather than coverage of Ukiah and points north, Bosk began to wonder: Just who is John Sakowicz?
She began to do some research.
Bosk, who is the editor of the eccentric North Coast journal New Settler Interview—146 issues and counting, some of them dated “summer,” others “mid-January through March”—did a little bit more digging than I did when Sakowicz first appeared in our pages in 2008.
For example, she discovered a series of 13 Boston Globe articles from 1992 detailing Sakowicz’s tenure as an unpaid fulltime volunteer for the Commonwealth Business Council, a Republican fundraising organization accused of selling access to officials in the administration of former Republican Massachusetts governor William Weld. She found Globe articles describing Sakowicz’s firing from his grant-writing position at an AIDS organization in the ’80s after reports surfaced that he had sought funds for his own AIDS nonprofit instead of the one that employed him.
She found a printed admission in the Globe that cocaine addiction and alcoholism had led him astray when he embezzled $20,000 from a Baltimore investment club. She already knew that his most recent paid position was as a guard at the Mendocino County Jail, an unusual job for someone who regularly claimed in print that he is the former owner of an offshore “multi-billion dollar hedge fund,” Battle Mountain Research Group.
Bosk soon interested Anderson Valley Advertiser reporter Tim Stelloh in the story, and he found no records for Sakowicz with the Securities and Exchange Commission or the New York Stock Exchange, and no affiliation with the financial firm Spear, Leeds & Kellogg often listed on his résumé.
Treated as a crank by radio station management, Bosk contacted me with her findings. I listened to her as though slipping down the proverbial rabbit hole. I couldn’t even take any notes as she spoke, I was so upended by what I heard and then by what I read. Through extensive research and in conversations with Bosk, with Ukiah Valley.tv’s Jay Johnson, with KZYX&Z general manager John Coate, with the Anderson Valley Advertiser’s Mark Scaramella and AVA reporter Tim Stelloh, a different picture of John Sakowicz began to emerge.
It appears that I, and the Bohemian, should have been more diligent.
First of all, I apologize.
And second, here’s how it happened.
It’s no news that traditional print media is undergoing a radical transition, but the country’s alternative newsweeklies, of which the Bohemian is a proud example, have largely escaped the budgeting woes and severe cuts endured by the dailies. The reason is simple: we’re already so small that there’s nothing to cut. We serve some 94,000 weekly readers with an editorial staff consisting of an editor and one and a half writers.
And so it was in February 2008, when all still seemed copasetic in the global financial world, that John Sakowicz fell into my digital lap. He submitted a piece for our Open Mic slot, the “community voices” section of the paper. It was a mock letter ostensibly addressing Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, entreating them to partner with him so that together they could pull down the world’s economy. It was smartly prescient of the fiscal meltdown to come.
We don’t pay for the Open Mic section, but Sakowicz wasn’t’t interested in being paid; he was a former multi-billion dollar hedge fund owner, after all. He proposed writing a series of articles for the news section of the Bohemian about the coming collapse of Wall Street, about the mysteries of swaps and derivatives, about the Masters of the Universe as they tumbled down to mere Earth, and suggested that our paltry $100 honorarium be directed either to his college-age daughter or to his intern. Ryan, who we later learned was his teenaged step-son.
Sakowicz seemed credible. Public documents on the internet showed that he had attended Johns Hopkins University, had known Louis Rukeyser and had won a PEN Center USA West Award for his writing about AIDS in 1997. Chief financial officer, hedge-fund, national sales manager at Dean Witter Reynolds—all the credentials looked great. He wrote well, too.
Sakowicz prompted lots of letters, and newspapers like letters. We were excited to ride just ahead of the curve of other papers on our financial reportage. I began publishing him every month, setting up a regular schedule for stories that noted their continuation in a “multipart” series and adding him as a “contributing editor” to our masthead.
Soon, based in part on the articles he published with us, Sakowicz had his own biweekly, one-hour radio show, The Truth About Money, on KZYX&Z-FM. He and a colleague, Jay Johnson, began filming the radio show and placing it on Johnson’s own online channel UkiahValley.tv, creating special programming just for the web.
Sakowicz wrote me excited emails, announcing that he was going to be on Al Jazeera discussing the economy, that he had been contacted by Pacifica Radio, that Playboy had assigned him a piece, that he had been made an “expert” at Norman Solomon’s Institute for Public Accuracy. That he was on the radio each weekday. “I am a financial journalist,” he clarified recently, “not a financial adviser.”
Research has revealed little solid documentation to support Sakowicz’s self-described history on Wall Street trading floors and firms. Digging did turn up confirmation that he was shortly employed by Swiss banking giant UBS. He was taken on in 2004 as an “unregistered trainee,” a spot described by former UBS branch manager David M. Fritz, who signed the offer letter, as an “entry-level position.” He left shortly thereafter on “long-term disability.”
There is little to back up the claim of his ownership in Battle Mountain Research Group save a document from UBS granting him the right, in 2005, to dissolve it. His attorney and business partner, Steve Schechtman, clarifies that there are “no public records” related to Sakowicz’s alleged Cayman Island–based hedge fund, mentioning Cayman tax and secrecy laws and saying that he has an “an obligation to keep the records confidential.”
Our research resolved no confirmation of employment with the top-tier Wall Street firms that Sakowicz has repeatedly listed in past: Dean Witter Reynolds, Colonial Management Associates, Merrill Lynch and Alex. Brown & Sons. There was nothing filed on him with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, and no evidence of the Series 7 license required for his industry.
Ultimately, save that short stint with UBS, neither I nor Tim Stelloh, nor even the Bohemian’s executive editor, was able to confirm Sakowicz’s employment with any other financial institution. Granted, many, like Dean Witter Reynolds, have been swallowed by larger firms. And that “multi-billion dollar” Battle Mountain Research Group hedge fund was ostensibly dissolved shortly after the United States changed its relationship with the Cayman Islands in 2004 to allow greater transparency, its records sealed under the old rules. But most institutions just had simply never heard of him.
I called the Institute for Public Accuracy and spoke to Sam Husseini at its D.C. offices. Sakowicz claims that the IPA did an extensive background check on him before taking him on their “expert” roster. How did they conduct that? “We didn’t do a background check on him,” Husseini admits. “He’s a self-nominated expert. People who knock on our door are an extreme minority. I checked with Norman [Solomon] and he only had words of praise for the Bohemian. I sent a few of John’s articles to some economists and asked if his content was reasonable. They said yeah.”
Well, let the circle be broken.
It appears that Sakowicz, while talented at understanding and predicting the economic moonscape, does not have the exact background he claims to have, one that we underscored by repeatedly printing it at the end of his articles. A credible publication cannot publish the works of writers whose credentials cannot withstand scrutiny. John Sakowicz will no longer be writing for us.
From SHANNON MORRIS
Comments in TheAVA.com
Beth Bosk. You nasty and stupid woman. You liar.
I have known John Sakowicz for 15 years. I probably know John better than any other person in the world.
I am John Sakowicz’s wife.
Although John and I haven’t had anything that could be remotely described as a “storybook marriage” or even a conventional marriage, and although my husband and I have gone through long periods of separation and reconciliation, and although John is a bundle of complexities and contradictions, and although John is a very imperfect man with many, many flaws, he is a good and decent man, and he is an exemplary father, he has come a long way as a husband, he can be counted on as a son, brother, colleague, and friend, he is a brilliant man, and every damn word in his resume is true.
Fifteen years ago, when I first met John as a young widow with two small sons, I lived in Colorado Springs, CO.
I took every precaution to get to know John. He had a folder full of stuff. He keep the folder in a cabinet in the office of his home in Woodland Park, CO.
I saw the press release when he was hired by Dean Witter. It was dated 1984. The press release mention that he was most recently a managing director at Colonial Management Associates, in Boston.
I saw his picture ID to get into his office at Dean Witter in the World Trade Center.
I saw his picture ID to get on to the floor of the New York Stock Exchange as an employee of Spear Leeds Kellogg. It was dated in 1982, and expired in 1985.
I saw his picture ID to get on to the floors of the COMEX and New York Merchantile Exchange as an employee of Merrill Lynch Commodities.
I saw the prenup signed by John and his ex-wife, Patricia, which documented his general partnership interest in the Cayman Island-base, Battle Mountain Research Group.
More recently, I’ve seen John’s settlement with UBS, wherein a partial interest of his general partnership — $8.5 million in retained partnership equity — in Battle Mountain Research Group is documented. Other exhibits document other interests in investments in Panama, Antigua, Cyprus, Malta…all offshore tax havens.
And I saw his commendations by the Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives for his “leadership in fighting AIDS”.
When I met John in 1995, he was the outreach director for “men having sex with other men” — gay, bisexual, and closeted men — at the Southern Colorado AIDS Project, in Colorado Springs. John did outreach in Palmer Park, and other public venues where men had unsafe, anonymous, clandestine sex with other men. At that time, John knew something about that subject.
I also feel comfortable telling you that when John lived in Boston, he was a patient of Martin Kafka, MD, a Harvard psychiatrist specializing in sex addictions, particularly among men. I could tell you a lot more about the painful path of John’s life in this regard, but I won’t. Let’s just say he is a survivor.
I want to say that almost every word of your above rant is a lie, Beth. It is unkind. It is more than unkind. It is cruel.
And you have never actually met, or even spoken to my husband. Shame on you.
Finally, I just called my brother. He and his family visited me once here in Ukiah, about 12 years ago. He has never met KC Meadows. He has never alleged any misgivings about how John hasadvised either me or my sons in financial matters.
As for Bodensteinner, he settled with John. For a HIPAA violation. So did Ukiah Valley Medical Center. Also, for a HIPAA violation. So did UBS. For mismanaging him in the liquidation of his hedge fund partnership interest. And so the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office. I won’t disclose why, because John still has friends there.
Bottom line? John doesn’t like to litigate, but when he does, he wins.
Someday, too, I suspect, you’ll settle with John.
But know this much, Beth Bosk: Years ago, back when you knew attorney Steve Schectman — Steve, who you now also routinely malign — you asked Steve whether your home insurance policy would cover your costs in paying for a legal defense in a defamation suit.
His answer then was “yes”, I think.
Steve was wrong. You’re on your own, you nasty, stupid woman. You liar.
From JOHN SAKOWICZ
The Truth Shall Set You Free
John Sakowicz’s columns for the North Bay Bohemian usually concluded with a bio, a sliver of personal history to add authority to his arguments about the country’s economic crisis: “John Sakowicz is a Sonoma County investor who was a co-founder of a multi-billion dollar offshore hedge fund Battle Mountain Research Group.”
Since that bio surfaced last year, his columns have been distributed to other Bay Area alt-weeklies in the Boho chain; he’s appeared as a pundit on Al-Jazeera; he’s been endorsed by the Institute for Public Accuracy—the San Francisco organization that connects so-called experts with journalists—and he has, of course, become a regular on KZYX, where his radio show, “The Truth About Money” airs every other Friday.
Yet there’s little evidence to suggest Battle Mountain is what Sakowicz says it is.
Sakowicz says he started Battle Mountain with some “buddies from Wall Street” in Grand Cayman, according to an article he published in May 2006 on the web site of his alumni university, Johns Hopkins. Neither the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority nor the Cayman Islands General Registry Department has any record of Battle Mountain. Nor does the federal Securities and Exchange Commission.
Though offshore hedge funds are not required to register with the SEC, Kris Devasabai, an editor with Hedge Funds Review, said any number of business dealings would likely have put Battle Mountain on the department’s radar. “If they were involved in trades, or if they bought shares that pushed them over the disclosure threshold, or if they were involved with companies that went into bankruptcy, they would have to file with the SEC,” he said.
Devasabai said he had never heard of Battle Mountain.“For them not to have their own web site, that’s normal,” he said. “But at least there would be filings with the SEC.” And if Battle Mountain is—or was—a multi-billion dollar operation, it would be a formidable fund, a serious player in the world of finance, Devasabai said. Yet a search of the archives of several business publications—including the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times—found no mention of Battle Mountain Research Group. An analyst at the Ermitage Group, an asset management organization, gave the same verdict: “No one here has heard of Battle Mountain,” he said.
Sakowicz declined to be interviewed for this story, or to provide any specifics on the fund’s finances. In response to a question about Battle Mountain’s financial statements, his assistant, Ellen Cruz, said in an e-mail she could not “confirm or deny” any aspect of Sakowicz’s personal or professional life. “However, I can tell you that, as a general matter, an unregulated offshore fund operated on behalf of foreign investors is generally of no great interest to U.S. based regulatory agencies,” she wrote. “Also, please be aware that many ‘tax havens’ or ‘corporate secrecy havens’ throughout the world have few, if any, registration requirements. This was true even for the Cayman Islands up until 2004, when the law was revised as a result of pressure by the U.S. Department of State.”
The timeline for Battle Mountain is unclear. But in April 2005, a Johns Hopkins “alumni notes” web posting refers to Battle Mountain as “a registered offshore hedge fund” and Sakowicz its chief financial officer. Sakowicz’s response to the AVA’s request for documentation was unusual, Devasabai said. “It’s not the standard way of dealing with this stuff,” he said. “Even if it’s off the record, hedge funds want to show you they’re legit.”
Jay Johnson, who once co-hosted the Truth About Money with Sakowicz on Ukiah Valley TV, said that during the several months they worked together he never saw any proof of Sakowicz’s high-rolling credentials.“He knows his financial lingo,” he said. “But he’s never invested for me. I’ve never seen his books. I’ve never seen any hard evidence of anything. But he knows how to talk about it.”
In his swift climb up the Northern California financial media ladder, John Sakowicz didn’t just claim to have founded a multi-billion dollar offshore hedge fund. To hear Sakowicz tell it, he’s a man with impeccable Wall Street cred—a man who’s spent much of his life toiling in finance.
“I am a 30-year veteran of Wall Street,” he writes in his profile at SeekingAlpha.com, a financial web site. “I have cofounded a billion-dollar, unregistered, offshore hedge fund, and have worked for UBS, Dean Witter, Colonial Management Associates, Spear Leeds Kellogg, Merrill Lynch, and Alex Brown & Sons.”
He’s said that he’s worked as a trader on the floors of the New York Stock Exchange, the New York Mercantile Exchange and the Commodity Exchange, and he says he’s a general partner in an offshore investment advisory group called Templar Advisors. Since Sakowicz’s ascent began last year, his columns on the country’s plummeting economy have appeared in the North Bay Bohemian—as well as the Boho’s other Bay Area papers. He’s appeared on Al Jazeera and KPFA as a pundit. He started “The Truth About Money,” a bi-weekly radio show on KZYX. And he scored an endorsement from the Institute for Public Accuracy, the San Francisco organization that connects experts and journalists.
As with the multi-billion dollar hedge fund, there’s little evidence to support Sakowicz’s claims of being a veteran of the financial world.
Templar Advisors, for instance, is a new operation. Paperwork establishing the company as a limited liability corporation was filed earlier this month with the Secretary of State’s office. His talk show co-host and attorney Steven Schectman, a pot lawyer from Humboldt, is listed as Templar’s contact.
At UBS, a spokesman said Sakowicz was with the company from December 2004 to September 2007. His official title, said Kris Kagel, the spokesman, was “financial advisor trainee.”
“If you’re a financial advisor with no prior experience, that’s the training course,” Kagel said. “It’s for rookie financial advisors.” Kagel wouldn’t comment on Sakowicz’s departure from UBS. But in a conversation between Schectman and Gretchen Giles, editor of the Bohemian, Schectman told Giles that Sakowicz went on “medical leave” from UBS after the firm “retaliated against him for a medical condition,” Giles said.
Several of the other companies listed on Sakowicz’s résumé had no record of his employment—including Colonial Management Associates (which was acquired by Columbia Management, which is now a division of Bank of America), Spear Leeds Kellogg (which was acquired by Goldman Sachs), Dean Witter (which merged with Morgan Stanley), Merrill Lynch and Alex Brown, now a division of Deutsche Bank.
Stock exchange spokespersons said they have no record of Sakowicz working on their floors either. (Sakowicz’s employment at Dean Witter and Merrill Lynch could only be verified through The Work Number, a third-party service used to give HR information to potential employers. Those companies could not say how far back in time The Work Number goes. At the other companies, spokespersons checked Sakowicz’s employment history.)
Sakowicz referred all questions to Schectman, who declined to comment for this story.
In an article on the web site of Sakowicz’s alma mater—John’s Hopkins University—Sakowicz makes other work claims that can’t be verified. The story, published in 1997, reports that at the time Sakowicz was a gay activist and poet living in Colorado Springs. He had recently been awarded a grant from Pen Foundation International for writers with HIV or AIDS, the story says, and he had published work in “mainstream periodicals like the New Yorker and the Atlantic Monthly”—perhaps the two most prestigious magazines in American journalism—but that he was refocusing his attention on the gay press.
“I have a view that’s not necessarily politically correct,” he’s quoted as saying at the time, “and that needs to be heard by my own kind.”
The Pen grant appears legitimate—his name is listed by the organization as a winner of a 1996 award—but neither the New Yorker nor the Atlantic have any record of Sakowicz’s byline, according to magazine spokespersons. Nor do they have any record of John “Sakowitz,” a byline he used when first publishing with the Bohemian several years ago.
The John Sakowicz of those first Bohemian stories is very different from the jubilant backslapper he resembles on KZYX: In an autobiographical piece published in 2001, he describes himself as a “dropout” and “loser,” as a “superaloof hippie guy living in the mountains with his dogs.” At the time, he wrote, he had been managing a campground for three years near Pike’s Peak in Colorado. When Sakowicz pitched his financial column to the Bohemian he never mentioned that he had previously written for the publication, Giles said.
These images of a gay poet activist-cum-hippy dropout are just two incarnations of a man who appears to have reinvented himself several times over the last three decades. Anyone who read his letter to the editor of this newspaper two weeks ago knows that, for a time, he was a Republican operative involved in a scandal that reached the highest levels of state office in Massachusetts; he also worked at the county jail in Ukiah before scoring the gig at KZYX.
It’s not clear how his incarnation as Mendo’s leading financial pundit will turn out. John Coate, the general manager of KZYX, has said he researched Sakowicz’s background and was satisfied with what he found. Giles says that Sakowicz—who freelances for the Bohemian—does not have any stories planned for the future.
Response for “The Rest of John Sakowicz’s Résumé”
Comments in TheAVA.com
I just re-read Tim Stelloh’s articles about John Sakowicz, KZYX host, which appeared in the April, 2009 editions of the AVA.
At the start this this New Year, 2010, I’ve got one thing to say: Tim Stelloh, you are a FOOL AND A HACK..
A FINRA “snapshot” of John Sakowicz’s Wall Street career is on file at the GM’s office at KZYX, FOR YOUR EXAMINATION…or anyone else. You may look at the snapshot, but not copy it. It has been on file since September.
The FINRA snapshot clearly establishes Sakowicz’s career THAT STARTED IN 1979, you fool..
The FINRA snapshot clearly documents SERIES 7 AND SERIES 3 LICENSES ISSUED IN 1979 AND 1985, RESPECTIVELY. That’s makes for a 30-year career, you hack.
The FINRA snapshot clearly document 17 YEARS AS A GENERAL PARTNER AT THE CAYMAN-ISLAND-BASED HEDGE FUND. That’s 17 years, you fool and hack..
The FINRA file clearly documents THE LAST THREE YEARS OF SAKOWICZ’S ONSHORE CAREER AT THE UNITED BANK OF SWITZERLND (UBS). UBS is the largest private banker in the world. Tim Stelloh, you wouldn’t be qualifed to walk into the front door at UBS.
For your information, FINRA is the trade organization and regulatory authority for the financial services industry. FINRA stands for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
FINRA oversees 4,800 brokerage firms, about 170,400 branch offices, and 643,000 registered representives.
The FINRA snapshot of Sakowicz’s career is signed by an associate director at FINRA. That’s pretty high up in the food chain, Tim.
Hey, Tim Stelloh. Did I mention you are a FOOL AND A HACK? Yeah, maybe I did.
You wanna right a wrong? APOLOGIZE to Sakowicz. In writing. And whatever Bruce Anderson pays you for your yellow journalism…GIVE THE DAMN MONEY BACK.
As for Sakowicz’s other detractors, admit it. You’ve got a bad case of professional jealousy.
You know who you are. Beth Bosk. Dotty Copland. Annie Espisito. King Collins. (King? How pretenious!)
You think that being around for a lot of years, makes you somehow relevant. But you’re wrong. Very wrong.
In truth, you fight for relevance. You shout to be heard. But you are irrelevant. Nobody listens.
Reply From TIM STELLOH
Thanks for the note.
If Sakowicz (or his lawyer) had mentioned FINRA when I contacted them, I would have been happy to include that in the story. Ditto with John Coate at KZYX, who I also talked to. Sakowicz wouldn’t talk to me, and Coate didn’t mention FINRA when I asked him about Sakowicz’s financial background.
More to your point, our stories weren’t about FINRA. They were about the credentials Sakowicz was using to position himself as a 30-year Wall Street insider and a media authority on finance. That cred didn’t include FINRA licenses.
Here’s what it did include: Employment at UBS, Dean Witter, Colonial Management Associates, Spear Leeds Kellogg, Merrill Lynch and Alex Brown & Sons. He said he worked as a trader on the floors of the New York Stock Exchange, the New York Mercantile Exchange and the Commodity Exchange. He said he was a general partner in an offshore investment advisory, Templar Advisors, and a founding member of an offshore hedge fund, Battle Mountain Research Group.
I found little evidence of anything–save UBS, where he was a trainee for three years (ending in September 2007), and Templar Advisors, which had been established with the Secretary of State’s office the same month we ran our stories.
That’s what I found when reporting my stories, and that’s what we published in the AVA.
News From the You’re-Getting-Sued-By-Sako Front
John Sakowicz, KZYX’s financial media man, says we can “expect” to see him sue the North Bay Bohemian “for a retraction and a correction” by next May if the alt-weekly doesn’t offer one voluntarily.
“The Bohemian has already taken down from the Internet, a slanderous and libelous article that their editor wrote in May,” Sakowicz wrote in an e-mail exchange that sounds awfully familiar, and which he forwarded to us. “I suspect they did this because they realized their error.”
The Boho got a demand letter from Sako’s lawyer soon after the piece he’s referring to was published in May, and the paper indeed disappeared the story–which was authored by editor Gretchen Giles and described why she’d told Sako to get lost (until then he’d been writing freelance columns about our impending financial doom).
We found the original Boho piece here, on page 9.
Or, for a little Sako-style braggadocio, read the rest of the e-mail exchange below…
From JOHN SAKOWICZ
I’ll “nip this in the bud” and end this email correspondence very simply…with the facts.
A “snapshot” of my work history on Wall Street, from FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Agency) is on file in the GM’s office. I told John he may show it to interested parties, but those people may not copy it. Incidentally, FINRA oversees the industry in which I work.
The FINRA snapshot clearly establishes a career that started in 1979. That’s 30 years., Lynda The FINRA snapshot clearly documents Series 3 (general securities) and Series 7 (futures and commodities) licenses. They were earned in 1979 and 1985, respectively.
The FINRA snapshot further very clearly documents 17 years as a general partner at Battle Mountain Research Group, a Cayman Island-based hedge fund. The Cayman Islands is a very expensive place to do business, Lynda. You may correctly presume our hedge fund’s AUM (assets under management) were significant. Bank secrecy, and corporate and tax secrecy laws shielded most of what we did, but FINRA, and its predecessor agency, NASD (National Association of Securities Dealers), were aware of us as trading partners with the big, onshore banks. I would add that neither FINRA or the NASD has ever sanctioned me in entire my career.
The FINRA snapshot documents my last three years in the securities industry, working as a private banker at UBS (United Bank of Switzerland). UBS is the world’s largest private bank, Lynda, with over $2 trillion in AUM. It too, is a secret place to work…very Swiss. It is very hard to get hired there. Very exclusive. Its training is very rigorous. Its policies and procedures are unforgiving. UBS has been described as the “CIA of banking”.
The FINRA snapshot ends with my four years working at the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, from 2000 to 2004. I was a passive investor in my old hedge fund throughout that time. In 2001, when the Cayman Islands succumbed to pressure by the U.S. Department of State and changed its bank secrecy laws, I helped my old fund to reorganize and relocate. I did this at an “arm’s length distance” through financial intermediaries.’
Finally, I would add that it took nine months to be hired by the Sheriff’s Office. The background investigation included an aptitude test, various criminal records checks, a credit report and other financial disclosures, a physical exam, two psychological exams (one oral, the second was written), a polygraph exam, and interviews with wife, sons, neighbors, relatives, etc. I was clean on all accounts, Lynda. I was hired.
I would further add that I blog for a major online magazine under a pseudonym, and I write financial articles for a university press, and make at least monthly appearances in the national or international media. I also report on financial issues for at least two other community radio stations.
Those are the facts, Lynda. And the facts are verifiable. The FINRA snapshot, incidentally, is signed by an associate director.
One of these days, it might occur to you and “your friends” to apologize to me. You have my permission to share this email with your friends. In any case, I published a version of this email about the FINRA snapshot in the Anderson Valley Advisor [sic].
In the meantime, before May, 2010, you may expect to see me sue the North Bay Bohemian for a retraction and correction, if they do not voluntarily make one after my attorneys next demand letter. The Bohemian has already taken down from the Internet, a slanderous and libelous article that their editor wrote in May. I suspect they did this because they realized their error.
Perhaps after reading this email, you will realize you error, too.
I apologize if I were mistaken about certain salient aspects of your life. Please accept my apology.
I do, however, stand by position that government retirees have pension plans that are three times more lucrative than the pension plans for the average private sector retiree.
Futhermore, states, counties, and cities can no longer afford these generous payouts. Again, you may find information about defined benefits plans vs. defined contributions at the Center for Retirement Research, at Boston University.
A belated Happy New Year to you, Lynda.
See reader comments below..