Here are updates in two Shriner and Jester court cases, news that the owner of the fishing tour business who took members of the Royal Order of Jesters (ROJ) fishing on the Amazon has closed shop and has been indicted by Brazilian authorities as well as my reaction to a ROJ spokesman disavowing knowledge of activities for which two Jesters are to be sentenced after both pleaded guilty to violating the Mann Act.
These seemingly random events could point to the possible convergence of independent investigations involving the Shriners secret sub-group, the Royal Order of Jesters and prostitution.
First, memberships go like this.
The Shriners and the Royal Order of Jesters are appendant groups of Freemasonry. One must first be a Master Mason before being able to join sub-groups like the Scottish Rite, Knights Templar and the Shriners. However, one must first be an invited Shriner before joining the Royal Order of Jesters, a self-described "luxury organization for only those who can qualify and who can afford it."
There are about 23,500 Jesters organized into "courts" that correspond to the 191 Shriner temples located across North America.
The Jester statement of denial was part of "Probe of Jesters' carousing goes national, Case against 3 men from area wraps up," by Buffalo News reporter Dan Herbeck. It was published yesterday and can be read here.
Herbeck reminded us that retired police captain John Trowbridge is scheduled to be sentenced tomorrow as he was caught with former New York state Supreme Court justice Ronald Tills and his law clerk Michael Stebick in a FBI human trafficking sting out of Buffalo, New York. The three admitted that they conspired to and/or got prostitutes to weekend Jester parties in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Florida and Ontario, Canada.
Stebick was sentenced late last year, details here.
The Buffalo News also reported that the ROJ court in Big Sandy, Kentucky, was "put on probation because of incidents uncovered in the same federal probe."
Tills was scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday, May, 7 but instead, a status hearing will be held to reschedule sentencing.
The other court case involves the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) v the Shriners Hospitals for Children as the UTMB is requesting an injunction to prevent the Shriners from closing their Galveston burn hospital because they allegedly failed to give the UTMB adequate notice to relocate all the research projects. The April 29 hearing was rescheduled to June 17. “Shriners Close Galveston Hospital, Sued by UTMB” can be read here.
According to an announcement on the Peacock Bass Fishing website forum, Richard Schair will be closing his fishing tour company, Wet-A-Line Tours, which is the same fishing company that took members of the Royal Order of Jesters on fishing trips to the Amazon.
Schair and others were recently indicted by Brazilian authorities who have been investigating “that minor Indian and other girls living near the rivers in the regions of Autazes became victims of sexual exploitation by North-American foreign tourists.”
Schair had sued a rival fishing tour operator for defamation in May, 2007 after it was alleged that he illegally entered Brazilian Indian reservations to recruit girls, some underage, into prostitution for his clients.
A witness list for the defense named 19 Jesters who were expected to testify about "their first hand knowledge of prostitution, minor prostitution, use of illegal drugs and/or entry into Indian reservations by Schair (plaintiff) and/or his customers."
The U.S. District Court witness list also explained that each:
"was a customer of the plaintiffs who fished with the plaintiffs in Brazil during approximately late August/September 2007. Based on the Wet-A-Line Tours, L.L.C. website, he is believed to be a member of the Royal Order of Jesters as were all other participants on this trip. He is expected to testify that there were twenty Jesters who paid for their trip and that he was one of the nineteen that ultimately participated. He is expected to testify that two boats were supplied by Plaintiffs, one for the Jesters and one for twenty or so girls who accompanied the Jesters. He is expected to testify that the 'activities' of the Jesters that week and the nature and extent of services provided by and/or arranged by Plaintiffs or Plaintiffs representatives. He is also expected to authenticate the many hours of videotape and still photographs taken by Defendants of the Jesters' 'activities' during the 'fishing' trip. He is expected to identify by way of photographs and association the members of the Jesters group, the identity by name or by description of the girls aboard, the ages of the girls aboard and the exact nature of the activities viewable in the video tape."
Those witnesses believed to be Jesters include William Dewane Meeks, Ferrel Harrison Adams, Jr., Robert Rex Lee, M.D., Robert Rex Lee, II, Thomas Raymond Lee, Don Anderson, Douglas Allan Boynton, Norman Lee Broschous, Robert George Duncan, Phillip Carl Spellens, Claude William Grimes, Carl Wayne Mixon, Sr., Walker Jenkins, Samuel Emmett Newton, Jr., Roy Edward Pennington, Roy Edward Pennington Jr., Edward Beynroth Schwimg, Edward William Sparks, Harry Howlett Waldron.
It is not clear if there are any connections between Tills' sentencing being rescheduled and Schair's indictment however the transcript of Tills' courtroom plea appearance reports that he was providing "proactive cooperation with respect to the unlawful transportation of individuals for prostitution or other sexual activity prohibited by law, and that includes sex trafficking, sexual exploitation of minors or any international travel for that purpose."
Court documents in the Schair case indicate that the Brazilian federal police were investigating allegations of sexual abuse brought by five victims who, in their depositions, described how a man named "Richard" lured them into "cleaning" on his fishing boats to discover that they were expected to drink whiskey and have sex with North American tourists.
You can read more about the Jesters Brazilian fishing trips here:
Finally, here is my reaction to a statement by Rob Leonard, a spokesman for the national Jesters organization who said that the illegal activities involving the Buffalo chapter and prostitutes are highly unusual incidents, involving conduct that would never be condoned by Jesters leaders. He also said the national leaders of the organization have made it very clear to members throughout the country that this kind of conduct is unacceptable.
Here is my reaction:
"I've investigated nonprofit corruption for over six years, three of which have been spent looking into the Shriners and am also the first author to expose their dark side. I've been investigating the Royal Order of Jesters (ROJ) for two, so that’s five years. After I was named as a secondary party of interest in a defamation lawsuit filed by the Shriners against the two whistleblowers who first alerted me to this, I wondered what it was that the Shriners were so desperate to hide.
I published the first ever article about the ROJ just over a year ago and the unexpected response was like hand to hand combat.
I say to Rob Leonard and the Royal Order of Jesters 'Prove it' because the paper trail leading through the Michael J. Dillon U. S. Court House in Buffalo indicates otherwise.
So, where is this Jester directive?
Who wrote it?
When was it sent?
What did it say, because a directive sent to the ROJ membership last January indicates they're updating their emailing list so they can continue keeping track of their 'Books around the Realm' and that 'the only reason for this medium to exist is to promote spreading the Gospel of Mirth by encouraging our members to travel.'
It was sent at the direction of Gary N. Martin, a head Jester who is also on the Board of Governors for the Mexico Shriner hospital. (Update: The contact name and phone number on the Jester e-mail have been verified and are that of a California anesthesiology and medical practice consultant.)
This illustrates why those concerned about hospital closures should factor in the possibility of mismanagement as the majority of those on both Shriner boards are also Jesters. This should reinforce the importance of that internal investigation into allegations of unethical conduct and corruption by two top Shriner leaders who are also Jesters.
Plea agreements include facts agreed upon by both the defendant and the U.S. government. In Judge Tills' case, the transcript of his plea agreement hearing before Judge Skretny reports that he's considering reducing Tills' sentence for pleading guilty to violating the Mann Act from ten years down to possibly a year and a half for providing proactive cooperation in the government's investigation in to sex trafficking and the sexual exploitation of minors and international travel for those purposes.
This tells me that the Feds are also investigating the Jesters for child sex tourism.
Both Tills and the U.S. government further agreed to the fact that he coordinated prostitutes for a national meeting up in Canada with the cooperation of ROJ national officers. Additionally, court documents have basically described the Royal Order of Jesters as a men’s organization with nationwide chapters, for which some members get prostitutes for their weekend meetings.
This is contrary to what Rob Leonard said.
I’ve studied all associated court documents since you first broke this story and let me say that I have compassion for those three Jesters caught in the FBI human trafficking sting because it looks like ROJ national is throwing them under the bus.
Those comments by Jester leaders indicate they’re either truth challenged or are ignorant of the facts.
Do I think the Royal Order of Jesters should lose their tax exempt status?
From all indications, the IRS needs to launch a CSI-type investigation to make that determination. Additionally, the Senate Finance Committee should hold hearings into issues of nonprofit compliance with the Royal Order of Jesters as a test case because, according to sources, they’ve known about this for over a year now.
The worst thing is that it hurts of all those hardworking Shriners who have dedicated their lives to helping the kids. They should never have been so misled, abused and disrespected.”
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