Newsweek sues cult leader David Jang under federal investigation

Newsweek’s The publisher is suing Korean American cleric David Jang, escalating a shareholder dispute fueled by the magazine’s reporting of a federal criminal investigation into Jang’s Olivet sect.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday and first reported by Religious News Serviceasserts that Jang, his main followers, and the entities they control must Newsweek over $30 million. Jang ordered the destruction of electronic records that would support some of those claims, according to the lawsuit.

In addition to Jang, the lawsuit names several defendants, including IBT Media, a company that owned Newsweek until 2018, and Etienne Uzac, former CEO and Chairman of Newsweek. Johnathan Davis, co-owner of Newsweek and the current CEO of IBT Media, is not named.

Jang did not respond to requests for comment via his website. Nor did the Olivet World Assembly respond.

IBT Media commented on the lawsuit. “We find it troubling that there is a media narrative crafted by Newsweek and Dev Pragad. We do not intend to judge these cases in the media,” said attorney Michael Hefter on behalf of IBT Media. “IBT will vigorously defend against Newsweek’s claims which will be shown to be unfounded.”

David Jang is described in the lawsuit as an “alter-ego” of companies and other entities that must Newsweek money, citing a legal doctrine that courts have used to hold shareholders and executives personally liable for the actions of companies they control. “Although Jang does not officially own or have an official role in many network companies, he exercises authority over their operations and uses them for his personal benefit and that of the community,” the lawsuit states.

If the New York state court allows the trial to continue, it will shed light on the financial records of Jang and his followers at a time when federal investigators are looking into whether some members of the Olivet cult are laundering money. money for criminals in China and the United States.

The dispute between Newsweek’s shareholders went public when Newsweek CEO and chairman Dev Pragad, who owns half of the company, told staff in April that he had left Jang’s church. Johnathan Davis, who owns the remaining 50%, accused Pragad of arming the newsroom in a corporate battle when Newsweek reported that Department of Homeland Security agents raided the premises of Olivet University in Anza, Calif., as part of an ongoing investigation into money laundering, visa fraud, and drug trafficking. workforce.

Olivet University had previously been embroiled in a fraud and money laundering scandal that ended when the college, IBT Media, Etienne Uzac and other followers of David Jang pleaded guilty to crimes after being charged by the Manhattan District Attorney in 2018.

IBT Media belongs Newsweek in 2018. Just before the Manhattan District Attorney announced the indictments, Uzac sold his stake in Newsweek to Pragad in a “spin-off” transaction that made the magazine publisher an independent company.

Last week, IBT Media sued Pragad, demanding he return Newsweek, claiming the “spin off” deal was nothing more than a ruse to protect the magazine from bad press. The lawsuit accused Pragad of reneging on a private agreement in which he agreed to return his Newsweek actions in Uzac once the legal troubles have subsided.

IBT Media filed its lawsuit in New York State Court on June 30; on the same day, the New York Department of Education shut down Olivet University’s operations in the state, accusing Johnathan Davis’ wife, Tracy Davis, and other top executives of mismanagement and non-compliance. -cleaning up of criminal activity after the 2018 fraud conviction.

A spokesperson for Olivet University sent a statement on Newsweek’s suit. “We are fundamentally unrelated to this case and it is unfortunate that Newsweek CEO Dev Pragad violates long-held Fourth Estate ideals to hold his legal team accountable, and Newsweek’s reporting and redacting staff to unfairly target Olivet University and other parties in a blatant smear campaign motivated by his personal greed and a lack of facts. We plan to aggressively fight Mr. Pragad’s allegations in court rather than in the court of opinion.”

Newsweek spokeswoman Laura Goldberg issued a statement on behalf of the company. He said in part, “In addition to claims against IBT Media for exposing Newsweek to tens of millions of dollars in debt resulting from IBT’s mismanagement – including Newsweek’s involvement in an ongoing lawsuit brought by IBT’s landlord over IBT’s failure to pay rent –Newsweek’s complaint states that IBT and its CEO Johnathan Davis intentionally destroyed over 1.8 terabytes of data, the equivalent of approximately 80 million pages of text, held on servers paid for by Newsweek. In doing so, IBT sought to conceal evidence of wrongdoing by IBT and its affiliates, despite explicit instructions from Newsweek not to destroy any records due to pending legal actions. The complaint also seeks compensation for IBT’s deliberate theft of Newsweek’s trade secrets in a vain attempt by IBT to replicate Newsweek’s envied success.”

The press release also quoted Newsweek attorney Robert Weigel of Gibson Dunn and Crutcher. “Newsweek did not take the decision to sue IBT Media lightly. In fact, it’s been a long time Newsweek’s hopes that an amicable resolution of its many complaints can be achieved without resorting to legal action. However, IBT’s decision to file its utterly baseless lawsuit left Newsweek no choice but to file a formal complaint against IBT, which she did on the afternoon of July 6, 2022.

“In addition to filing a complaint against IBT, Newsweek also seeks to recover from several individuals and entities affiliated with IBT, including David Jang. David Jang was nominated because he is IBT’s alter ego. As detailed in NewsweekAccording to Jang’s complaint, Jang has long run a constellation of interconnected businesses that include IBT for his benefit. Indeed, Jang authorized a veritable long list of wrongdoings on IBT’s part, including repeatedly causing IBT’s funds to flow to other companies under his control at the expense of Newsweek and his rights to compensation,” Weigel added.

While this case is ongoing, the Newsweek The newsroom continues to cover news about IBT Media, Olivet World Assembly and Olivet University. “No one outside of the newsroom has influence over these stories,” said Newsweek Global Editor Nancy Cooper in a post on the company’s website. “We have rigorously covered developments related to our owners, and we will continue to do so. This is standard ethical practice in US newsrooms.”

The history of the different Olivet entities dates back to 2000, according to their different websites. This was the year Jang founded Olivet Theological College and Seminary, later incorporated as Olivet University. Both Olivet Assembly USA and Olivet Assembly Europe say they started in 2000 as fellowships of churches by former seminary students. Olivet World Assembly, which also operates out of Dover, New York, says it started the same year.

The church’s website now lists more than 120 countries in which it says it has members, but federal investigators are focusing on Olivet’s ties to China, from where the college brings many students to the United States. . A former student, a pastor named JianGang “Frank” Lan, has been charged in North Carolina with possession of counterfeit products. A North Carolina judge ordered Lan’s arrest last week after he failed to appear in court and set his bond at $1 million. Lan is in China, his lawyer said. Newsweek discovered Lan’s connections to the Olivet Assembly before Olivet University confirmed that he had graduated from the university.

Three senior law enforcement officials said Newsweek on condition of anonymity that they suspected links between the Lan case and Chinese organized crime and drug cartels, which are turning to China to buy the chemical precursors needed to manufacture the powerful opioid fentanyl which has been causing a wave of fatal drug overdoses in the United States.

The New York Department of Education decided to close Olivet University’s operations in the state on May 17, weeks after Newsweek reported on the Homeland Security raid on California’s Olivet campus and at the end of a two-year review process.

Deputy Education Commissioner William P. Murphy wrote to Olivet on June 30, rejecting the college’s appeal of the May 17 decision, saying the university had done far too little to clean up its act of criminal activity which led to the indictment of the Manhattan district attorney. He specifically cited Tracy Davis’ leadership role as a factor and prevented Olivet from reapplying for certification to operate in New York.

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