According to a transcription of tape-recorded board minutes, John Maison had been appointed treasurer of the KWVA at the October 15, 1994 council meeting in Alexandria, Virginia, after this motion was made by Harley J. Coon: "Be it known this day that by approval and consent of the Executive Board of Korean War Veterans, Incorporated, Mr. John P. Maison, III, (inaudible) is hereby appointed to the position of treasurer and financial officer to be effective August 9th, 1994." KWVA directors at the time were: Nick Pappas, President; Tom Clawson, Vice President; Rusty Tramonte, Secretary; Scooter Burke, Kenneth Cook, Harley Coon, Edward Grygier, Hansel Hall, and Ron Jabaut. Maison was to replace Treasurer Roger Scalf, who resigned.
Maison came to the KWVA with good credentials and a good word from Director Kenneth Cook. The October 25, 1994 issue of the Belleville News-Democrat featured a story entitled, "John Maison wears a lot of hats." In it, staff writer Maureen Houston noted that he was a member of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Kiwanis Club, Lions, Elks, Korean War Veterans, Shriners, Legion of Honor, Masonic Lodge 504, and High 12 Club International. The article said that Maison was retired from the Navy, and that he was also the retired general manager of a hotel in the Fairview Heights area. The article further said, "Now retired, he keeps busy as a financial consultant and with club business." Maison also told the reporter that he was currently, "doing a special audit for Mercantile Bank." His credibility seemed valid, former president Pappas told the Korean War Educator.
During the 1994-1996 time frame, Maison was able to allegedly abscond with large amounts of KWVA funds because, at the time, his was the only signature on KWVA checking and/or charge bank accounts. Standard operating procedure for the KWVA national board from the date of the organizationís inception, until a motion at an Executive Council Meeting on February 10, 1990 changed it, allowed just one signature on a check. At that meeting in 1990, a motion was made, seconded, and carried, that accounts be centralized with the treasurer, and that checks be drawn by dual signatures. [See The Graybeards, April 1990, page 13.] According to Dick Adams, who was president at the time of this motion, the two signatories on checks after that motion was made were President Dick Adams and Treasurer Roger Scalf. Unfortunately, the practice of requiring two signatures on disbursement checks somehow fell by the wayside. While the motion was a matter of record on minutes written seven years before the Maison incident, it was not carried over into the wording of Section 7.D. (Treasurer) of the more permanent official KWVA by-laws. Consequently, knowledge of the requirement was not passed down to new board members and officers when they replaced retiring ones. (For instance, the newly-elected national president in 1994, Nick Pappas, did not join the KWVA until 1991. He was unaware of the 1990 resolution until September 2003.) Also, during the years that Maison was treasurer, there was no internal audit committee, because Stan Myrdaís CPA firm in Fairview Heights, Illinois, handled the accounting/tax preparation needs of the KWVA.
Once the suspected criminal activity was discovered by CPA Myrda in a routine review of the books, local authorities were notified, and FBI and IRS investigators began to review the evidence. According to an Associated Press (AP) story that was syndicated in August of 2000, Maison, who also was known as Paul Markowitz [Markowitz being his true name], was subsequently indicted for mishandling (embezzling) KWVA funds. The story said, "According to the indictment, Maison used the groupís credit cards and cash to pay his own credit card bills, deposit money into his checking account, and purchase items including audio visual equipment, jewelry, airline tickets, magazine subscriptions and a pornographic video tape." At the time, Maison was the treasurer of the KWVA and had sole control over its finances. The AP story went on to say that, "Maison resigned after a February 1997 audit by Fairview Heights accountant Stan Myrda. Maison had told Myrda that a check written for $5,000 cash on August 8, 1996, was used to pay a convention bill at a St. Louis hotel. ĎThe accountant later discovered that the bill was actually paid by a Korean War Veterans Association credit card and that the $5,000 check had been deposited into Maisonís personal checking account,í according to the indictment."
The following persons were serving on the KWVA board at the time the investigation began: Pappas, President; Clawson, 1st Vice President; Magill, 2nd Vice President; and directors Andy Lynch, Ed Grygier, Jerry Bey, Bill VanOrt, Emmett Benjamin, Dick Danielson, Bob Morga, Dot Schilling, Don Barton, Ken Cook, Harley Coon, and Rusty Tramonte. [See January-February 1997 Graybeards.] KWVA treasurers in that and recent times have included: Roger Scalf (resigned 1994); John Maison (1994-1997; resigned/relieved of duty 1997); Jim Martin (February 1997-November 1998; dismissed without advance notice by Coon at the 1999 Atlantic City meeting); Dan J. Nickolas (appointed by Coon, but died shortly after coming into office); and Thomas Gregory (current treasurer).
The FBI investigation of Treasurer Maison resulted in a 16-count indictment (August 23, 2000) by a federal grand jury in East St. Louis, for $240,000 in mail fraud and wire fraud. Using their vast investigative resources, FBI agents eventually quoted a loss figure even greater than Myrdaís accounting firm could substantiate. Maison was scheduled to appear in federal court in September of 2000, when he met his untimely death in an automobile accident in Florida on September 3, on State Road 25 in Palm Beach County, Florida. He was hit by a drunk driver, and died at the scene. Upon his death, the case was dismissed.
The KWVAís current reputation has very much been affected by the Maison theft incident, even though the loss of funds occurred several years ago. The investigation took three years to complete. During that time, to prevent possible compromising of the investigation, the CPA, KWVA Judge Advocate Magill, and retired Chief Illinois Supreme Court Judge Joe Cunningham advised the members of the national board that they should not share details about the ongoing felony investigation with either the general membership of the KWVA or the general public. There were, unfortunately, leaks of confidential information from board members. Because of the scandal, suspicious members who could not get immediate answers from the board of directors dropped out of the KWVA in anger and protest. The theft made headlines in a variety of news media. Rumors of mismanagement not only permeated the KWVA itself, but they also spilled outside of the membership and into the general public.
The situation became further complicated because, in the middle of the investigation, there was a change in the KWVA leadership at the top level. Nick Pappas left office as President on July 26, 1998. He was replaced by Harley Coon on July 27. Before he left office, Pappas settled a "partial" claim on the KWVA losses, and the KWVA recovered $132,879.19 from the insurance company. The settlement papers reflected the fact that the payment was only a partial release by the insurance company, and the remainder of the claim would be forthcoming from the KWVA at a later date.
As the slow investigation continued, President Harley Coon told the Executive Board that he wanted a CPA nearer to his hometown in Beavercreek, Ohio. In the middle of the investigation, Coon decided to terminate the services of Stanley Myrda, the CPA who had discovered the Maison discrepancy in the first place. The hiring of an Ohio CPA took place at the KWVA meeting in Mobile, Alabama. Also, after the transition of national KWVA presidents took place in July of 1998, Coon said that Pappas would no longer be allowed to be involved in the investigation, in spite of the fact that Nicholas Pappas was the official IRS-authorized representative for the KWVA. In a letter dated February 4, 2000, Coon told CPA Stan Mryda that Nick Pappas was "now only an individual member of the KWVA" and thus no longer a person in authority within the KWVA.
All insurance claims ultimately have deadlines. In spite of the ongoing FBI investigation, the Federal Insurance Company placed a deadline on the second half of the insurance claim for "on or before September 3, 1998". (Mr. Maison was not indicted until August of 2000.) KWVA President Pappas sent a letter to the insurance company on June 17, 1998, stating that the September 3 deadline was too short and a six-month extension was needed. The insurance company did not reply to his letter.
In the months immediately after he became president of the KWVA, Harley Coon apparently did not follow up on the second half of the insurance claim. Stan Myrda continued to review the books for discrepancies, discuss financial matters with investigators, and gather information for the insurance claim. Myrda then filed the second half of the claim on January 06, 2000. President Coon received a letter on March 8, 2000, informing him that the claim deadline had been missed, and thus the Federal Insurance Company declined to consider any further claims in the Maison theft case [see March/April 2000 Graybeards, page 15}.
Because the Maison incident is a matter of public record, it is impossible to sweep what happened under the rug. It tarnished the KWVA in the worst way, and probably will forever remain a cloud over this veteransí organization. Even today its current national leadership continues to be blighted for the incident, even though many of the directors serving in 2003 were not serving the KWVA in a national capacity at the time the incident took place. There is still a certain amount of mistrust and suspicion when it comes to the handling of money matters at the national level. Furthermore, the suspension of Nick Pappas is considered by many members to have been highly improper and an issue that needs to be resolved if the organization's by-laws are to have any current or future credibility.
This section of the KWVA News provides in-depth information about the Maison incidentónot to dredge up the past and "beat a dead horse" (as national treasurer Thomas Gregory complained to Lynnita Brown in a telephone conversation on September 27, 2003), but rather, to try to help lay the past to rest by offering to the members of the KWVA as complete a representation as possible of the events that unfolded in 1997. Mr. Maison is dead and the multiple counts of fraud that were charged against him are therefore now moot. Funds in the amount of $131,879.19 [there was a $1,000 deductible] were restored to the KWVA treasury through an insurance payment on the theft claim received in 1998. There is a much better checks and balance system now in place when it comes to safeguarding the money in the KWVA treasury. At the Executive Council meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico (soon after the Maison theft was discovered), the board tightened its grip on the KWVA finances by requiring two signatures out of three named persons (President, Vice President, Treasurer) on all KWVA regular bank and Magna Bank accounts. Unlike the 1990 motion, which was lost in old minutes, the post-Maison motion that further defined the fiduciary responsibility requirements of those handling KWVA money was officially incorporated into the by-laws by an amendment on July 27, 1997 [see pages 31-32, The Graybeards, September-December 1997]. According to Thomas Gregory, current treasurer of the KWVA, the requirement for two out of three signatories on disbursements--the treasurer, the assistant treasurer, and the presidentóremains standard procedure.
As to the remainder of the missing funds that was not returned to the KWVA treasury from a follow-up on the
insurance claim, according to retired Illinois Supreme Court Judge Joseph Cunningham, the statute of limitations
for insurance claims in the State of Illinois is ten years. The KWVA filed an initial claim in 1997, with Nick
Pappas informing the insurance company before his tenure as KWVA president ended in July of 1998, that the claim
was not fully settled just because a partial payment had been received that year. During Harley Coonís
presidency, although a second claim was filed in January of 2000, the insurance company rejected the claim,
stating that the claim deadline (that the insurance company itself had arbitrarily mandated for the KWVA to
meet) had not been met. The directors serving on the board at that time apparently acquiesced to the insurance
companyís ruling. Inquiries to KWVA President Harley Coon on this matter have not been answered.
The Paper Trail - Introduction
The Paper Trail - Grand Jury Indictment Document
The Paper Trail - Post-Indictment Documents
The text of the above documents has been copied verbatim in their respective html documents with emphasis added for readability.
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