By Nick Stamatakis
When CBS “60 Minutes” presented their original piece on “Rebuilding St. Nicholas” on April 12, we noted with emphasis that they missed the mark in many ways: From the reasons why the cost blew up to $85 million (or an unbelievable $24,000/sq.ft!! – the
110-story Freedom Tower next block was built in two years for $1,000/sq.ft.!!!), to the real culprits for the lost money, to the amount of money missing (they reported only $3.5 million missing), to the failure to mention the federal investigation of the project, etc…. Yesterday suddenly CBS decided to rerun the story, with some revisions, without making any announcements… They now refer to the federal investigation in the project as “accusations”: “Despite a price tag that might exceed 81 million dollars and a turbulent background that involved accusations of financial mismanagement”, says the announcer of the new version…
No CBS, no, it is not just about “accusations”. What kind of “fake” journalism is this? Two GOA financial officers have already been indicted on embezzlement and wire fraud, Papadakos and Demetriou. The second one was the St.Nicholas project director for years and is now awaiting trial. Also, another change in the last few months is that the “contingency fund” was $1.5 million last Spring (supposedly imposed by Gov.Cuomo to make sure the “Shrine” runs smoothly) and now it shot up to $30 million! Why? Obviously to allow for more corrupt “fund-raising” and funneling money elsewhere by the “expert”, Karloutsos….
Also, no announcement about the rerun of the 60-minutes show by GOA and Karloutsos, nothing from TNH or other media close to the GOA… In similar occasions they would be blasting the news for days… Why then such secrecy? Why rerun the St. Nicholas story in the middle of such a busy news time, in the middle of the most crucial elections of our lifetime and with covid-19 still dominating our lives? Didn’t CBS have at least 20 more important political, financial and other stories to show on a Labor Day Weekend?
It seems to me that the major reason for such a rerun would be related to the continued effort to relieve the real culprits for the St.Nicholas debacle from their criminal liability (CBS may also want to cover their “behinds” in view of the upcoming Demetriou trial…) The investigation of their abuses and corruption is still on going and Jerry Demetriou will soon appear in Court after his indictment. If anybody knows “what happened” and “how much money went where” it is him. And so we, the Greek American community, expect that the authorities will take full advantage of the plea bargain agreement that Mr.Demetriou signed last year.
So many questions remain unanswered and so many faithful who donated for the project of St.Nicholas demand real truthful responses from the culprits. Among the faithful many DEMAND THEIR MONEY BACK, especially those who were misled that they were donating money for an Orthodox church and are now presented with a non-denominational “Shrine”. Why are those who abused their power, NAMELY KARLOUTSOS & CO. – keep hiding behind their finger and pretend that “all that went wrong was fixed” and that now we can proceed to celebrate that we spend $85 million to built a church that under the most lavish estimate would NEVER exceed $20 million? They abused their power before, and are still doing it now, this time under a new name “the Friends of St.Nicholas 2.0” (The First Friends of St. Nicholas has failed – how many times will they fail again?)… Does anybody think that anything changed by just switching to a new name/level? Karloutsos was behind the old structure and he is behind the new structure under the laughable cover of “spiritual advisor”… My dog could be a better spiritual advisor for the project than Karloutsos…
The questions, even with the new “cover” are huge: How much money in total was “mis-allocated” and where? It cannot just be $3.5 million – if that was the case, Catsimatides would easily offer to cover the gap… How much did the icons cost? Was there an offer for free icons from world class byzantine iconographers that Karloutsos refused? YES, there was… Why AB Elpidophoros is not mentioned anywhere? It is as if he does not exist… The answer is that Karloutsos is helped tremendously by singularly focusing the blame on AB Demetrios and his unrealistic insistence on picking the architect Calatrava for the project. His “game” is to use Demetrios as a scapegoat and avoid his huge liability… In the meantime he gave himself last year an Archon’s Award (for …Human Rights, obviously for his excellence in …corruption)…
Alas, he has already lost the game in the court of public opinion. Previously he could count on the corrupt TNH editor to cover his acts. Now there is NO-ONE in the Greek American community who does not know that he is the “black sheep”, the one who is immersed in corruption… Helleniscope and a few others presented a number of scandals involving: a) His “selling invitations” at the White House annual Greek Independence celebration, partnering with “John-John” (Horozoglou). b) His wife and son getting about $1 million annually in salary and benefits (!!!) from GOA up to last January… c) His son Mike (aka “Fredo”), involved in a number of scandals involving building a casino in Greece and a Greek medical marijuana project… And many other “profitable schemes”, not the least of which is his taking commission from the same St.Nicholas project now under federal investigation!!! How much was the commission on the first about $35 million raised?… How about the rest of the money? Did we avoid his “commission” on the rest of the money?
No matter what evading tactic the corrupt Karloutsos uses, the faithful WILL NEVER FORGET until he is indicted and he is forced to resign. We demand transparency and accountability, AND WE EXPECT THE AUTHORITIES TO TAKE ACTION SOON… Corruption in GOA has to face an exemplary punishment, if we as Americans want to reshape the structure of all non-profit institutions, a loosely organized system that has certainly failed the public’s trust.