Beauty and the Big Shots

The Sexcapades and Politics Behind New York’s Bogus Catholic Museum

The Union Labor Life Insurance Company (ULLICO), a Washington-based fund for Malloy's national union, has already loaned it $1 million. Even before the ULLICO loan, a museum summary claimed that Malloy, Fugazy, and Donald Trump had raised more than $1 million for it. In addition, Malloy has persuaded several major contractors and unions to participate without compensation in the renovation of a closed Catholic school in East Harlem, converting it into the museum's site—an ongoing project that has already attracted millions in donated services. With last year's major fundraiser garnering $1.2 million in corporate and individual donations, the museum's cash and in-kind total receipts exceed $6 million, according to sources familiar with its books.

Cox is also now reaching out to the Bush administration. Though she used to display a photo of herself greeting Al Gore at an airport, she's gone down to Washington twice in recent months—for George W.'s inaugural week in January and again in May for the Presidential Gala of the Republican National Committee. The gala invitation listed her as a deputy chair, meaning she was supposed to raise $100,000 of the $23 million in GOP booty collected at the event. Her four-day stay in January was largely paid for by the museum, as was at least part of the cost associated with her overnight stay at the Ritz Carlton for the gala. In between these two trips, she took her son, sister, and two staffers to Rome—on the museum's tab—for the February elevation of Cardinal Edward Egan.

The trips and the furniture are part of a pattern of personal expenses billed to the museum. Four former employees who, combined, cover virtually the entire history of the museum—Parker, Angela Marmo, Larissa Van Duser, and former director of development Christina Walker—have detailed a decade of abuse. Walker, who joined the museum in 1999 and raised millions before leaving this March, was so disturbed by the recklessness of Cox's personal expenditures that she went to Malloy and other board members about it.

Miss Liberty: National Museum of Catholic Art director Christina Cox
photo: courtesy of Angela Marmo
Miss Liberty: National Museum of Catholic Art director Christina Cox

"Cox charged her dresses, other clothing, makeup, and jewelry to the museum," Walker says, "often using the ATM card at Lord & Taylor, Saks, and Dress Barn. She spent thousands for wigs at a store called Tiffany's. She bought furniture for her new home in Jersey, and had some of the furnishings in the office sent there. She'd come to the office with shopping bags filled with towels, sheets, curtains—and take much of it home. She spent thousands on Christmas ornaments—including $600 Santa Clauses—that disappeared from the office. She paid for groceries at the A&P near her house and frequent meals at the Macaroni Grill in Jersey too.

"Before she moved to Jersey, the museum paid her $3000-plus-a-month rent on her eastside apartment, as well as her cleaning lady, and other home expenses. The museum paid for her Jeep Cherokee—lease, insurance, gas and E-ZPass. When she went to the Bush inaugural, I had to co-sign a $5000 check to her to cover her expenses. When she called back two days later for $1500 more, the bookkeeper told me it was to cover the ticket for the Boots & Black Tie party of the Republican committee, and I had to sign over another check."

Cox's personal expenditures were so high in 1999 that, Malloy concedes, an "adjustment" was made in her salary to cover some of them, raising it from the budgeted $85,000 to $194,000. "Of course when her salary shot up so much, she had to pay much higher taxes," Walker remembers. "So the museum paid her additional taxes." Records obtained by the Voice also show that the lease for an apartment where Cox once lived, at 150 East 56th Street, named the museum as the tenant, and a museum financial statement listed the tuition that this single mom paid for her son's Catholic school as an organizational "donation."

Van Duser, who was Cox's top aide from 1995 through 1997 and is now on a Fugazy payroll, wrote a letter to Cox in November 1997 charging that "museum funds have paid your rent, your son's tuition, and you have taken ATM cash withdrawals and other pay-outs." Van Duser ran the museum's midtown store during this period—when it was temporarily selling hundreds of thousands of dollars in religious items. She charged that Cox had "informed the staff that I am not to see the daily sales record—a journal that I set up and which I used to compile the quarterly sales figures [for taxpaying purposes]. I can only surmise that you have matters to hide from me."

When Van Duser—who is married to a lawyer—threatened to sue for $45,000 in unpaid wages, she was offered a job by Fugazy. Criticized by Malloy for "a history of filing lawsuits against employers," Van Duser, who runs a Fugazy nonprofit now and filed one lien a decade ago against a company she'd worked for as a consultant, would not comment for this article.

Walker adds that the museum ran another store on First Avenue in East Harlem from fall of 1999 through spring of 2000, and while it hardly earned what the one in midtown had, "there were no cash deposits made in the museum's accounts from the store." Walker and Marmo, who ran the store, say the cash proceeds were simply turned over "in an envelope on a regular basis" to Cox. The staff, rent, and inventory costs were all paid by the museum, and Marmo estimated sales—particularly at Christmas and Easter—in the tens of thousands. The organization's financial statements over the years list state sales tax payments that are consistently less than what is due on reported sales, and Walker, Marmo, and the Van Duser letter suggest that all sales may not have been reported.

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