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'Three Cups of Tea' a fraud? Judge dismisses lawsuit against Greg Mortenson.

A federal judge on Monday threw out a lawsuit by readers seeking damages from 'Three Cups of Tea' author Greg Mortenson. Parts of the nonfiction book are alleged to be fabrications.

By Staff writer / April 30, 2012

In this file photo provided by the Central Asia Institute, co-founder Greg Mortenson practices counting with first-graders in one of CAI’s four schools in Zebak District, Badakhshan Province, Afghanistan.

Sarfraz Khan/Central Asia Institute/AP/File


A federal judge in Montana dismissed a lawsuit on Monday filed by four readers who charged “Three Cups of Tea” author Greg Mortenson engaged in a massive fraud by claiming his bestselling books were works of nonfiction when some the events in the books are now alleged to be fabrications.

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US District Judge Sam Haddon threw the suit out and barred any attempt by the plaintiffs to refile the action.

“The imprecise, in part flimsy, and speculative nature of the claims and theories advanced underscore the necessary conclusion that further amendment [of the complaint] would be futile,” Judge Haddon said.

The judge’s action leaves unresolved what legal recourse, if any, ordinary readers might have against a bestselling author who promotes a fictitious story as fact.

The lawsuit sought to wage a nationwide class-action suit on behalf of millions of readers against Mr. Mortenson, his co-author, David Oliver Relin, his publisher, Penguin Group, and a nonprofit organization he set up to help build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The suit said the author and others engaged in a pattern of racketeering to use fabricated or inflated claims in his books to help portray Mortenson as a hero to boost book sales and increase donations to the author’s nonprofit group, the Central Asia Institute.

Both of Mortenson’s books, “Three Cups of Tea” and “Stones Into Schools,” have been nonfiction bestsellers, earning more than $5 million in revenue. In 2009, he was named a finalist to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

The complaint said Mortenson and his co-defendants “continued to misrepresent that the contents of ‘Three Cups of Tea’ and ‘Stones Into Schools’ were true, nonfiction accounts of what really happened, when, in fact, the contents were false and the accounts did not happen.”

“The enterprise’s fraudulent scheme was to make Mortenson into a false hero, to sell books representing to contain true events, when they were false, to defraud millions of unsuspecting purchasers out of the purchase price of the books, and to raise millions of dollars in charitable donations for CAI,” the suit says.

Lawyers for the readers had asked Haddon to block all future sales of the books and award readers three times the cover price of the book as well as other unspecified punitive damages.


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