Dark Angels of a Bogus Catholic Museum

Felons, Wiseguys & Usual Suspects Back a Bizarre Charity

•  Walker and another staff member went to Cox to complain—one even reminding her of the mail fraud statutes—but Cox continued pursuing her angel fetish. Walker says the museum spent thousands on a painting of a look-alike blond angel that Cox personally commissioned. The wall idea was borrowed from the Ellis Island Wall of Honor, which Fugazy helped to create when he chaired the Statue of Liberty Bicentennial Committee in 1986. Fugazy met Cox then and introduced her to Lee Iacocca, the auto magnate who dubbed her the "Miss Liberty" queen without a pageant.

•  In an extended interview with the Voice, Malloy contended that the museum was audited by the IRS in 2000 and that no wrongdoing was uncovered. The IRS will not comment on an audit, but the museum's accountant, Barrie Abrams, wrote a letter to the agency on March 30, 2000, claiming that "all files, administrative and financial, were destroyed" in a May 8, 1999, fire at the museum's headquarters. Walker, who joined the museum right after the fire, disputes the claim: "I sure didn't see any files that were destroyed. The files smelled of smoke. I used the files for two years after the fire, and Christina never told me, 'Oh, that was lost in the fire.' The IRS was looking for documentation that was either not ever kept by the museum or that they were hiding."

The fire report indicates that it was "man-made fabric or fiber" that ignited the fire—not paper, which is also a choice on the same form—and that the damage was limited to between 16 percent to 49 percent of "the room or area of origin." At the time of the fire, museum officials told the Daily News how the museum had been miraculously saved from the worst of the fire, recounting that a double layer of Sheetrock was put up just days before. With the office then located in the church rectory, the museum was paid $126,886 on an insurance claim, though Walker, Angela Marmo, and other staffers at the time dispute that the damage to a few loose art works was that severe.

William Fugazy, former limo company magnate, helped found the museum and sits on its board.
photo: Fred W. McDarrah
William Fugazy, former limo company magnate, helped found the museum and sits on its board.

Abrams, who is also Malloy's union accountant, has cautioned in his financial statements that the museum "has a significant net deficiency that raises substantial doubts about its ability to continue as a going concern."

•  The museum's five-year provisional charter, granted by the State Education Department and the Board of Regents, expired in July 2000. Though the charter provides that the museum had to apply for either another five-year extension or an absolute charter before the date of expiration, it didn't get around to applying until August. Though the sole state requirement of a chartered museum is to file annual reports, the museum missed virtually every filing, turning them in retroactively to try to gain a renewal after the five years were up.

Though the museum promised by letter to respond in January to an already overdue detailed state questionnaire, it has yet to do so, dragging the renewal process out for almost a year.

David Palmquist, who runs the state's museum bureau, came to New York in the summer of 2000 and went looking for the museum. "I went to its old address at Rockefeller Center," says Palmquist, unaware that the museum had actually been forced to leave its store directly across the street from St. Patrick's way back in 1997. "Then I heard it was in a church in the West eighties or nineties and went there. Finally I found it in East Harlem. Part of the reason I went was because they hadn't filed for years—which is rare." Palmquist only saw the first and second stories of the museum office (it has two more floors in the old Salerno townhouse, where they moved after the rectory fire).

When the department approved the initial charter, it brushed aside objections from the archdiocese, ruling that the church "had no copyright" on the use of the word Catholic. Subsequent events have confirmed Cardinal O'Connor's worst fears—the museum has used its name as false advertising, reaping millions from confusion about its connections to the church. For a while, its Rock Center store even directly competed with church sales of religious items. State officials will soon have a second shot at redressing that wrong.

Research: Dasun Allah, Greg Bensinger, Brian Bernbaum, Rebecca Center, Robbie Chaplick, Douglas Gillison, Jesse Goldstein, Mark Rendeiro, Theodore Ross

Related articles by Wayne Barrett:

Part I: Beauty and the Big Shots: The Sexcapades and Politics Behind New York's Bogus Catholic Museum

Were Malloy’s Marks Illegal?: Labor Leader and Museum Madonna Take Trump Freebies

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