by Merritt Clifton
(From Animal People, October 1995)
WASHINGTON D.C.––Fired on August 11, according to one Humane Society of the U.S. senior executive and numerous staff, HSUS vice president for investigations and legislation David Wills remains officially on administrative leave, amid an apparent board-level power struggle.
Animal People sources within HSUS indicate that HSUS president Paul Irwin and some board members want Wills out; John Hoyt, president of Humane Society International and Wills’ longtime patron, purportedly wants to keep him. HSI is the umbrella for HSUS and numerous affiliates.
HSUS/HSI board chair O.J. Joe Ramsey is said to be heading a probe of accusations that Wills misused funds and sexually harassed subordinates. A corporate attorney in Sacramento, California, Ramsey has served on the HSUS board since 1975; his arrival roughly coincided with that of Irwin.
Ten days after the September edition of Animal People detailed complaints against Wills by many current and former HSUS staffers, we received a letter from Washington D.C. media lawyer Stuart Pierson, charging we had made defamatory and false statements about Mr. Wills by asserting that Mr. Wills was fired.
But hours before our September edition went to press, our HSUS senior executive contact told us, “They re calling it something else, but he’s fired.”
“Is he being paid?” Animal People asked.
“The pay he’s receiving is his severance,” we were told.
Pierson on behalf of Wills also demanded that Animal People should “immediately correct…other such assertions concerning Mr. Wills,” without specifying what Wills thought was in error.
We requested particulars of Wills, both through Pierson and through HSUS, but received none. We also repeatedly requested particulars of Hoyt and Irwin, but likewise received no answers.
We were told of two errors in our coverage by Sandra LeBost, of Royal Oak, Michigan, who is now trying to collect $42,000 Wills owes her in settlement of her claim that he failed to repay funds and valuables borrowed from her in connection with starting the short-lived National Society for Animal Protection in mid-1989.
One error was misidentifying as a mediation judge Circuit Court Judge Steven Andrews, who signed the motion for judgement in LeBost s favor. Andrews ratified the recommendation of three independent mediators.
The other error, according to LeBost, was that the mediators recommended that Wills should pay $15,000, not $21,000, to plaintiffs William and Judith McBride, in a parallel case originating from loans made in 1991. Wills apparently plans to contest that case, contending the McBrides entrusted him with funds as investors, not as lenders.
Animal People also discovered that the reason a house couldn’t be found at the address Wills gave the court in the LeBost case was an apparent slip by either Wills or the recording clerk: Wills reportedly said he lived at 2614 Chain Bridge Road in Washington D.C., but actually lives at 2416 Chain Bridge Road.
Otherwise, the only claims of error in our coverage reaching us by deadline came from California animal rights activist Sherry DeBoer, who claims to have introduced Wills to his present wife. DeBoer took issue with our reporting that in June, Hoyt and Irwin, both former clergymen, presided over a lavish Mexican wedding for Wills and Lori White, former wife of PETA president Alex Pacheco, now a volunteer for the Washington Humane Society.
According to DeBoer, the wedding, on the roof of an apartment building in Puerto Escondido, was held in Mexico because “Lori could’ t afford a wedding like that in Washington D.C.,” even though, “it was anything but lavish,” featuring “wilted gladiolas. ” The only guests, DeBoer insisted, were Hoyt; Irwin; Humane Society of Canada executive director Michael O Sullivan; Congressional representative Charles Wilson (D-Texas), White’s former employer; Jill Rooney, her current employer; veterinarian Hugh Wheer and his wife Cynthia; a Mexican veterinarian and his wife; and DeBoer plus her date.
“Lori made her own dress,” DeBoer said. “It was a typical funky animal rights people occasion. There was one dinner, after the wedding, and it was nothing lavish, with a very cheap cake with cheap frosting. We all had cats and dogs eating off our plates,” because, DeBoer recounted, “the wedding party spent their four days in Puerto Escondido rescuing strays.” She also said they hired a team of carriage horses for four days, to give them the time off.
Animal People questioned DeBoer closely about the itinerary, because as she repeatedly outlined it, no one in the wedding party did any sightseeing in Mexico City or spent any time there, either on the way down or on the way up. They did stay overnight in Mexico City, DeBoer allowed, on the way back, but “We all stayed in the hotel next to the airport. We bought big baskets to sneak in all the animals we were taking back.” DeBoer said the rest of the party flew back to Washington D.C. early in the morning, while she had to wait another seven hours to catch her flight to northern California.
The itinerary was important, as in an August 15 appeal to membership, O.J. Ramsey–– purportedly probing the use of HSUS funds in connection with the wedding––wrote, “Just recently, Paul Irwin, HSUS president, visited ‘Willy’ at the Reino Aventura theme park in Mexico City. I asked Paul to make this field visit immediately, and to prepare a special report to all HSUS members and donors. Although we had originally intended for the Report [sic] to come directly to you from Paul in Mexico, unavoidable postal delays made it necessary to forward it through our headquarters in Washington D.C.”
The accompanying 450-word report, dated August 8, enclosed in a replica Mexican envelope, consisted almost entirely of facts about the orca star of the 1993 hit film Free Willy! already published thousands of times in hundreds of media. “I can provide additional details, if needed,” Irwin wrote, “upon my return to Washington D.C.”
Possibly Irwin went back to Mexico in August. But he certainly didn t provide any additional details to us, in response to our inquiries. Neither did Earth Island Institute and Free Willy/Keiko Foundation president David Phillips either confirm or deny Ramsey’s assertion that HSUS is working with the Free Willy Foundation to help raise the $10 million needed to complete new quarters for Keiko at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.
“And, when we release Willy to his original family group off the coast of Iceland,” Ramsey continued, “hopefully some time next year, he will be the first whale ever to be freed.
Preceding that appeal, HSUS had evidenced only peripheral involvement in Keiko’s situation. Earth Island Institute has been the lead organization behind the Free Willy/Keiko campaign ever since EII was generously plugged at the beginning and end of the Free Willy! video.
Iceland says no
Moreover, said Johann Sigurjonsson of the Marine Research Institute of Iceland, “The government of Iceland has repeatedly decided in recent years not to permit reintroduction of killer whales into Icelandic waters who have been subjected to animal life in distant parts of the world for prolonged periods of time. This is because such a reintroduction could lead to the transfer of foreign bacterias or other infectious agents with unknown consequences for the local ecosystem or individual animals, and because of the uncertainty regarding how an animal kept in captivity for most of his life would survive in the wild.”
While Free Willy/Keiko campaign leaders have claimed, “Experts are scanning the waters off Iceland to try to find the family he was taken from at the age of two so they can be reunited,” Sigurjonsson stated that, “Anyone conducting research on killer whales off Iceland needs a permit. To my knowledge, the appropriate authorities in Iceland have not been contacted, nor have they issued any permits to conduct such studies.”
More recent statements from the Free Willy/Keiko campaign assert that “Vocal and DNA analysis will begin in October in Iceland to locate Keiko s family.” Just how the investigators will analyze wild orca DNA without capturing some orcas has not been explained.
Meanwhile, though no captive orcas have been returned to the wild as yet, many smaller captive whales have been released: 380 through 1994, according to Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research, who is reportedly leading the search for Keiko’s family. Of the 380, 32 were dolphins from marine parks similar to Reino Aventura. HSUS was even involved in the release of the dolphins Rocky, Missie, and Silver, who in 1991 were transported from the defunct Brighton Dolphinarium in England to a seapen off the Turks and Caicos islands in the Caribbean, rehabilitated, and released with much fanfare.
“I have been trying to research the fate of these animals,” British marine mammalogist John Dineley posted to the MARMAM online forum on September 8. “It appears that this is unknown, although it is known that Silver had to have medical aid and food supplementation two weeks after his release.”
Balcomb claims Silver was seen and identified by markings in early 1994.
Ramsey’s appeal made no mention of three former U.S. Navy dolphins who were transported from San Diego to the Sugarloaf Dolphin Sanctuary in the Florida Keys in December 1994, to be prepared for release by Ric O’Barry of the Dolphin Project. As Sugarloaf and O’Barry became embroiled in a nasty public dispute with former partners in the simultaneous rehabilitation of three dolphins from the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, HSUS seemed to back away.
“They don’t send us money, they don t come down here I don t know what their role is,” O’Barry complained to Animal People. “They were here when the cameras were here, and I haven’t seen them since. The Navy dolphins are now ready to go free. I want to release them soon, without a permit because I don t think I need one, but I can’t release them if HSUS still claims a proprietary interest in them.”
On September 13, O’Barry faxed to HSUS vice president for wildlife John Grandy, “SOS We need help in the care and feeding of the ex-Navy dolphins. What exactly are your responsibilities, from your point of view? I continue to prepare them for release back into the wild. Buck, Jake, and Luther are excellent candidates, and I am confident this project will be successful. If you choose not to help us feed the animals, please let me know as soon as possible. I will look for help from other groups.”
AsAnimal People went to press on September 18, O’Barry hadn’t received an answer.
Wills & Hoyt
Meanwhile, the Animal People telephone rang often as readers and people who heard about the David Wills situation through the grapevine called to describe their own experience with him. According to a perhaps apocryphal account circulated through the HSUS internal grapevine since the mid-1980s, Wills, apparently a native of Baltimore, became involved in humane work in the very early 1970s when he walked up to a table where longtime HSUS staffer John Dommers was soliciting funds, asked what Dommers was about, and observed, “Sounds like a pretty good scam.” Dommers reputedly introduced Wills to John Hoyt.
Hoyt, with little evident background in humane work, became HSUS president in 1970, giving up a 13-year career in the ministry. Irwin, apparently a ministerial acquaintance, followed Hoyt to HSUS about five years later. Ordained a Baptist in 1957, Hoyt preached in Allen Park, Michigan, until 1960, when he moved to the First Presbyterian Church in Leroy, New York. He then served as senior minister at the Drayton Avenue Presbyterian Church in Ferndale, Michigan, until 1968, when he earned his doctorate in divinity and assumed a post as senior minister at the First Presbyterian Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
The story in the grapevine for at least six years holds that Wills came from a broken home, had a juvenile record for breaking-and-entering, and a troubled early marriage, and that Hoyt saw him as a redemption prospect and surrogate son, as Hoyt has four daughters but no sons. But in January 1990, Wills told Animal People editor Merritt Clifton that he had no police record. “The only trouble he was ever in,” he said, “was that When I was 19 years old, I faked a resume. I’ve been punished for that many times,” he continued. “So I’m not a perfect person. So what?”
Horse and collie fancier/breeder Barbara Schwartz of Holland, New Hampshire, remembers what seems to be that resume incident. Wills arrived with Hoyt’s recommendation to head the Nashua Humane Society in 1972, she told Animal People. Reputedly just divorced in Maryland, he was said to be the youngest person ever to head a U.S. humane society, and quickly won a reputation as both a lady’s man and an aggressive fundraiser. “He practically blackmailed the city into building a new animal shelter,” Schwartz said, “with piped-in music and not enough dog runs.” But she allowed that the shelter was needed.
Schwartz and other dog fanciers “tangled with Wills pretty early,” Schwartz continued. In 1978, according to her files, Wills moved to put local Docktor Pet franchise owner James McKay on the board of directors. Wills reputedly sent people who came to the shelter seeking purebreds to McKay’s store. The local dog fancy objected, obtaining a letter from Hoyt to the effect that putting a pet store owner on the NHS board might constitute an unadvisable conflict of interest. “The fanciers also got Wills’ resume and checked it out,” said Schwartz. “He claimed to have a masters degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. False. He claimed to have worked for the Washington D.C. Humane Society. False.”
On October 9, 1978, Schwartz stated, “the fanciers confronted Wills at a meeting. Wills boasted he was the king of the killers,” Schwartz went on, “and claimed he could do euthanasias faster than anyone else. That didn’t scare or amaze us. We had all culled puppies and were used to it.”
Soon thereafter, according to Schwartz and other longtime New Hampshire dog fanciers who were involved with NHS, Wills departed, just ahead of the threat of a statutory rape charge. NHS money turned out to be missing. How much money? Schwartz estimated probably about $10,000. Others whom Animal People interviewed claimed it was more like $2 million, an unlikely figure for an organization the size of NHS, especially at that time.
Wills declined the chance to comment again on the allegations, but in January 1990 his recollection was that he took on the local breeders over pet overpopulation, showing them the reality of euthanasia.
Wills and Schwartz continue to tangle. “In 1992,” Schwartz said, “Wills attended a meeting of the U.S. Combined Training Association, sanctioning body for the Olympic three-day equestrian competition, which includes dressage, endurance, and stadium jumping. He said he’d have the three-day competition thrown out,” Schwartz remembered. “My daughter was involved in that event. I was put on the committee to meet with Wills and review the HSUS objections to it. He never showed up.”
On September 6 of this year, HSUS president Paul Irwin urged International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch to cancel the three-day event scheduled for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta because, “We have concluded that it is simply not possible to hold an Olympic three-day competition in the seasonal heat and humidity of Atlanta without recklessly endangering the lives of the horses.”
Equestrian competition experts worldwide consider the HSUS position silly. The majority of Olympic equestrian competitors and their mounts have traditionally come from hot, humid climates: Latin America, southern Europe, and the southern U.S.
Whatever happened in Nashua, Wills left behind a woman with whom he’d been living, believed by some fanciers to have been a second wife, and in 1979 became executive director of the Michigan Humane Society, again with Hoyt’s recommendation, bringing along Nashua assistant Joan Witt. The Nashua nastiness was apparently unknown to the MHS board until 1982. Then, Schwartz recalls, “He was on local TV with a blind collie, attacking breeders, and said he got her from me. I’m from Michigan. My friends and family saw that broadcast. My uncle, now deceased, was a lawyer. We sued Wills, and eventually won about $15,000, which I donated to charity.” Schwartz said the collie actually came from NHS, and had never been one of hers.
A Detroit TV station aired a report on Wills’ Nashua history in 1983, but MHS sources believe the threat of legal action deterred other media from delving deeply into it, as did Wills in the 1990 interview, claiming the TV report was based on bogus information supplied by Schwartz.
Wills’ friends in Detroit included then-attorney Deday LaRene, now disbarred and working for HSUS. LaRene’s wife at the time was then-MHS attorney Sienna LaRene. “Wills and the LaRenes were close almost from the day Wills arrived in Detroit,” says Sandra LeBost, then and now an MHS volunteer. They shared a love of fast cars: LaRene had Ferraris, Wills a Corvette. When the LaRenes divorced, Deday married Joan Witt, who preceded him into an HSUS post; “Wills and Sienna were also a number for a while,” recalls LeBost. Even after relocating to Florida, Sienna LaRene kept her $70,000-a-year MHS job, commuting by jet.
In 1987 Wills and Hoyt proposed to merge MHS into HSUS; HSUS would have run MHS as a model shelter network, and would have gained hands-on involvement that might have aided fundraising. The terms resembled those of the deal HSUS proposed earlier this year to take over the Washington D.C. animal control contract from the Washington Humane Society a deal reportedly negotiated by Wills and LaRene, put on hold when Wills was put on executive leave, and apparently scrapped in mid-September.
The MHS/HSUS merger was shelved in 1988, about the time syndicated columnist Jack Anderson published a three-part series detailing how HSUS gave Hoyt a rent-free house, loaned Irwin funds with which to buy beachfront land in Maine, and paid both Hoyt and Irwin salaries in the middle six figures, at a time when six-figure salaries in humane work were still scarce––although Wills told Animal People editor Merritt Clifton in September 1989 that MHS had paid him $100,000.
Frustration that the merger fell through may explain Hoyt’s otherwise inexplicably harsh reaction when Clifton, then news editor for The Animals Agenda, called to get his response to the Anderson columns. Instead of sharing his side of the story, Hoyt threatened the publisher with economic retaliation if any article about the Anderson columns appeared. When the article appeared on schedule, Hoyt cancelled an HSUS subsidy to The Animals Agenda of $5,000 a year; apparently arranged the termination of funding from the Elinor Patterson Baker Trust, reputedly controlled by HSUS; and later, after follow-ups appeared, cancelled HSUS advertising in The Animals Agenda.
HSUS staff have been officially forbidden to speak to Clifton since the 1988 episode but many call and write anyway.
As Animal People reported in our July/August edition, Wills on June 15, 1989 proposed to the MHS board that they should form a National Center for Animal Protection along similar lines to the National Society for Animal Protection, which Wills founded on his own in August 1989, with a start-up gift of $10,000 presented by Hoyt at a public ceremony.
Meanwhile, on June 19, 1989, Wills resigned from MHS, along with board members Paul Henecks, Robert Sorock, and TV personalities John Kelly and Marilyn Turner, as the board became aware of a deficit eventually estimated at $1.6 million. Kelly and Sorock, also on the HSUS board, joined Wills, Hoyt, Turner, Sienna LaRene, Joan Witt, and Julie Morris, now director of shelter outreach for the American SPCA, as members of the NSAP board.
In November 1989, former MHS bookkeeper Denise Hopkins was bound over for trial in connection with the missing MHS funds. She was eventually convicted of embezzling $60,000. Wills testified that Hopkins admitted to him that she had forged documents pertaining to a $450,000 trust account, a $250,000 line of credit, and a pay raise for herself of $10,000 a year. Staff writer John A. Basch of the Macomb Daily reported on November 15, 1989, that “Wills is himself under investigation. Part of the continuing investigation centers on that $250,000 line of credit, which allegedly was secured with forged documents and forged signatures of humane society board members. During cross examination, Wills admitted that some of the credentials listed on his resume were lies, and said that he also lied about a felony conviction for breaking and entering.”
Still Animals’ Agenda news editor in January 1990, Clifton looked into the case at the request of Michigan subscribers. Wills and Sienna LaRene called the Basch article false and libelous, and said the Macomb Daily had published a retraction, but produced no documentation of that. Wills also said MHS was fully covered by insurance against employee theft, and would not lose a cent from donations. But MHS executive director Gary Tiscornia, who succeeded Wills, and then newly appointed MHS accounting manager Chuck Korotka both disputed that. They erased the deficit by instituting a longterm repayment plan for creditors, and by cutting $500,000 a year in jobs and salaries from the MHS budget.
On January 22, 1990, Clifton filed a 400-word report. It was scheduled for publication, but at the last minute, then-Animals Agenda board members Wayne Pacelle, Holly Hazard, and Don Barnes intervened to keep it from going to press. Pacelle had authored a highly flattering profile of Wills published by Animals Agenda in May 1988. Wills, who became an HSUS executive after NSAP was absorbed by HSUS in 1991, influenced Hoyt and Irwin to hire Pacelle, Aaron Medlock, and Bill Long away from the Fund for Animals in April 1994. Hazard resigned from the Animals’ Agenda board in 1991 following Clifton’s disclosure that the organization she heads, the Doris Day Animal League, has never spent less than 68% of its budget on direct mail appeals––more than twice the norm for animal-related advocacy groups. Barnes resigned from the Animals’ Agenda board soon afterward, when he was caught forging Clifton s name and signature on an incendiary memo to Hazard.
The unpublished Animals’ Agenda report didn’t include the most explosive material Clifton obtained during the 1990 investigation: statements of MHS staff alleging Wills had sexually harassed and physically intimidated them. Asked about the allegations, Wills acknowledged having sexual relations with subordinates, but denied that harassment or coercion was involved. Those allegations were not mentioned because the sources, claiming fear for their physical safety, refused to go on record.
Yet another Jack Anderson expose, mentioning Wills and the MHS deficit, failed to head off the 1991 absorption of NSAP by HSUS. On August 9, 1991, the Detroit Free Press mentioned that NSAP board member Marilyn Turner, wife of NSAP and HSUS board member John Kelly, had been questioned by a grand jury probing a defunct employee leasing firm called Atlantic Western. Atlantic Western collapsed in March 1990, leaving workers in eight states responsible for millions of dollars in unpaid medical insurance claims. Turner, the Free Press said, was asked “about payments that Atlantic Western made to a TV production company she owns. Turner’s son Dean,” a former pro hockey player, “was one of Atlantic Western’s original owners,” the article continued.
President of Atlantic Western was John Burge, nephew of longtime Teamsters Union boss Jimmy Hoffa. Burge, a former Teamsters official, was convicted on October 2, 1991 on seven counts of taking bribes from trucking companies in 1984-1985 to insure labor peace. The Atlantic Western assistant chief executive and labor consultant was Rolland McMaster, Hoffa’s longtime closest associate, who served five months in jail in 1966 for taking employer kickbacks.
Neither Dean nor Marilyn Turner was mentioned again in connection with the Atlantic Western case, and Kelly was never mentioned. But another Wills associate had a link to Jimmy Hoffa from a different direction. Among Deday LaRene’s many noted clients, also including the late Michigan Ku Klux Klan grand dragon Robert H. Miles, were Vito Giacalone and his son, Billy-Jack Giacalone. Vito was identified as a member of the Mafia in Congressional testimony as far back as 1963, and in 1987 was named by the FBI as one of the eight members of the ruling council of organized crime in Detroit. LaRene began representing the Giacalones in 1975, when they were called before a federal grand jury probing the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa earlier that year. Hoffa vanished while nominally in federal custody shortly after testifying to another federal grand jury which was investigating Mafia activity in New Jersey.
On September 16, 1992, both Giacalones and LaRene were indicted for conspiracy and tax evasion. On June 16, 1993, under the headline “Missing key witness holds up federal trials,” the Free Press reported that, “Albert Allen, of Warren, a key witness in the cases against Vito Giacalone and attorney Deday LaRene, hasn’t been seen since April, according to court documents.” Allen was officially believed to be in hiding. The Free Press archives don’t tell whether he ever turned up.
The case never did go to trial. Instead a probe of LaRene’s influence in the U.S. attorney’s office moved ahead. On November 23, 1993 a jury cleared U.S. Justice Department lawyer Theodore Forman of obstruction of justice, but convicted him of criminal contempt, the Free Press reported, “for disclosing secret grand jury materials.” Wrote Free Press staffer Jim Schaefer, “Forman admitted copying more than a thousand pages of documents, including names, addresses, and phone numbers of witnesses and funneling them in 1992 to reputed organized crime leader Vito Giacalone, who was being investigated along with his attorney, Deday LaRene, in an Internal Revenue Service case. Forman’s mother, Helen Formanczyk of Grosse Pointe Park, ran up large gambling debts. Her husband could not pay them off,” after she was convicted and sentenced to 11 years in prison for delivering 1.2 kilos of heroin in a bid to erase the debts. “The Mafia,” Schaefer went on, “through a longtime friend of Forman’s, implied the debts would be forgiven if the 30-year-old tax lawyer helped Giacalone.”
Forman’s attorney, Steve Fishman, claimed no one was harmed by the leak of witness information.
On December 21, 1993, LaRene took a plea bargain. According Detroit News reporter Brenda Ingersoll, “In return, the government agreed not to prosecute him concerning his potential exposure in other investigations. Those investigations included an obstruction of justice probe into the theft of confidential Justice Department reports involving Giacalone. The reports were found in Giacalone s office with LaRene’s fingerprints on them.”
Vito Giacalone accepted a similar plea bargain a few days later. He began serving a three-year prison term in June 1994.
Wills testified for LaRene at his sentencing hearing on May 4, 1994. “To see him put away for a year where he cannot use his brain for the betterment of society,” Wills proclaimed, “is an egregious miscarriage of justice.”
LaRene served the year anyway, joining HSUS upon his release.
In 1988, about the time Michigan Humane board members were becoming alarmed by rumors of missing money, Wills set up an elite fundraising team called The Challengers in a downtown office, under newly hired director of development Ron Schmidt. Within months, however, Wills dismissed Schmidt and dismantled The Challengers. Schmidt went back to his old job as development coordinator for CareGivers, a Detroit in-home social service organization, but many people involved with MHS remember that before he did, when he knew he was about to be fired, Schmidt asked other staffers what they might know about Wills’ alleged use of recreational drugs. Schmidt intimated to certain sources that he might have plastic pen cylinders from Wills’ desk which had been used as cocaine straws. No source Animal People has located seems to know whether Schmidt ever took that purported evidence to police or a prosecutor, but he reputedly did take a list of related allegations to members of the board.
Schmidt left Detroit in 1990 to become director of development at Tufts University, outside Boston. On October 17, 1992, 31 days after LaRene and the Giacalones were indicted, Schmidt was found dead in his Stoneham home. “Because Schmidt had terminal cancer,” the Boston Globe reported on October 23, 1992, “police initially did not consider his death suspicious.” But an autopsy revealed Schmidt had died from repeated blows to the head. Police and other investigators didn’t search the house for clues until October 22, five days after the killing. Middlesex District Attorney’s office spokesperson Jill Reilly said they found no hint of either a motive or a suspect. Apparently no one inquired––at the time––into Schmidt’s involvement in the case of the missing MHS money, or asked if Schmidt had been named in the grand jury documents turned over to LaRene. Animal People did learn that some law enforcement agencies may be asking such questions now, albeit perhaps only because they were asked if they had asked them.
The Schmidt family posted a reward of $5,000 for information leading to the conviction of the killer, then boosted it to $10,000 a year later. Despite calling a number of people with the same names as family members, Animal People was unable to locate any family member to ask if leads had surfaced. Animal People did pick up a suspicion among some sources that Schmidt s death had perhaps not been vigorously probed because he was openly gay.
Apart from “Who done it?”, the big question remains: why murder a person who was going to die soon anyway?
Wills, Hoyt, and Irwin were asked by fax on September 11 if they knew or cared to comment about the Schmidt case, but did not respond.
Follow the money
The flamboyance of the allegations involving Wills and friends overshadows the unanswered questions about the extent of HSUS/HSI financial dealings with former financial radio talk show host I.H. Sonny Bloch, recipient of HSUS’ James Herriot award in 1989 and a member of the HSUS board from January 1991 until early 1995. Bloch is now in federal prison awaiting a series of trials, beginning with a federal court suit alleging that Bloch helped to defraud at least 280 investors from 33 states of a total of $21 million. In a parallel case, Bloch faces eight counts of tax fraud, perjury, and obstruction of justice. He fled to the Dominican Republic in March 1995, but was extradited back to the U.S. on May 26 to stand trial. He is reportedly also under federal investigation for alleged statutory rape, which would indicate that the case in which charges have not been filed involved transporting a minor across state lines.
After the September issue of Animal People appeared, describing Bloch s situation, Irwin is said to have gathered the HSUS staff for a terse briefing. He said, “Sonny Bloch is still our friend,” Animal People was told. Attendees were also warned against speaking to the media. A memo some recipients attributed to Wayne Pacelle backed up the warning by stating that anyone who talked to Animal People would be fired.
Animal People received a tip from a respected Capitol Hill source that Irwin had personally participated in transactions involving both Bloch and football great John Riggins; that Irwin and Riggins together held a controlling interest in a private financial institution; and that HSUS funds might have gone through that institution. But an involvement of the Paul Irwin of HSUS with Riggins, reputedly an ardent hunter, sounded unlikely. Irwin didn’t respond to direct inquiries. Financial experts Animal People consulted were unable to turn up details on the affairs of such an institution.
But Animal People did find a pair of Philadelphia Daily News articles, published on July 1 and September 1, 1986, describing how, “The Trustees Private Bank, a bank so private that it has no cash and no tellers, has just launched the Pennsylvania Trust Company.” Vice president in charge of trusts administration for the new institution was one Paul Irwin, “recruited from Glenmede Trust along with Richardson T. Merriam, a behind-the-scenes power in Pennsylvania Republican politics. Glenmede Trust manages the estates of millionaires and the eight Pew family charitable trusts,” whose assets were then estimated at $2.2 billion. Best known for supporting biomedical research, the Pew Trusts have also assisted some animal welfare charities.
Pennsylvania Trust would do trust and investment management for high net-worth individuals.
Could Paul Irwin of HSUS both help run a bank for the ultra-rich and run HSUS? It would seem a tall order. But again, Paul Irwin of HSUS didn’t say yes or no, and Animal People so far hasn’t turned up any information that either clearly confirmed or eliminated the possibility.