Sandy Frost Newsvine
Fri Feb 15, 2008
news, shriners, tax-fraud, sex-scandals, jestersSandy FrostUpdate: As of today, February 18, 2008, the tax returns of approximately 200 clubs can be found by searching for "Royal Order of Jesters" here. Additionally, a list of Jesters contacts is available at the end of this article.
Update: As of today, February 17, 2008, the International Royal Order of Jesters has failed to comply with a December 20, 2007 request for their exemption application AKA Form 1023. Additionally, IRS documents indicate that the International Royal Order of Jesters may not be a legitimate charity because their advance ruling period expired December 31, 2007.
The Royal Order of Jesters is made up of 24,000 invited Shrine leaders, including current Imperial Potentate, Dr. Bernard Lemieux, MD. Other members of the current Imperial Divan claiming Jesters membership include Alan Madsen, Gene Bracewell, Jack Jones and Jerry Gantt. Their mascot is a naked little guy named "Billiken" who, when shown animated online, appears to have his, uh, thingy popping up and down as he blinks.
So, the Shriners "have fun while helping kids" and the Jesters just have a good time "spreading the gospel of mirth."
Good times usually mean orgies and the Shriners and Jesters are no strangers to sex scandals.
Back in January, 2001, Canadian media reported how a Shriner "gentlemen's dinner" turned lewd when a naked woman began performing lap dances, another laid nude on a table as a man slid a beer bottle in her and then performed oral sex on her. After police investigated, the Shriners unit was disbanded.
The International Royal Order of Jesters oversees nearly 200 clubs. Their members include United States Presidents, including Truman and Ford, congressmen, governors, state representatives, federal judges, US district attorneys and secretaries of state. Their ranks are swollen with doctors, lawyers, sheriffs, Masonic Grand Masters and Shrine leaders.
So far, the Jesters have managed to fly under the radar without anyone asking too many questions.
The first question is:
Have the Jesters hustled the feds by convincing them that raising millions for partying is a legitimate exempt purpose because the IRS has had no problem classifying them as both a nonprofit fraternity and charity?
Their 2005 tax returns AKA the 990s show that the Jesters fraternal brought in over $1.3 million dollars with assets totaling over $1.8 million dollars. That same year, the Jesters charitable brought in over $420,000 with assets totaling $835,000, for a combined worth of about $2.65 million dollars. And, in that same year, charitable contributions went toward building their new $1.2 million 5,000 square foot HQ/museum in Indianapolis, Indiana.
This also means that the members can claim their dues as charitable contributions on their tax returns.
In 2006, Jesters executive director Alex Rogers, who is also an attorney and past potentate, submitted an application for property tax exemption to the Marion County Assessor based on the group's claim of being a charity, claiming their new office building included a museum.
The Jesters current website also claims their new headquarters is a 5,000 square foot museum. The site also states, for the first time, that the museum now includes memorabilia dedicated to the works of William Shakespeare. This Shakespeare connection is new, as it has not been previouisly mentioned anywhere in the groups' historical or non profit documentation, including tax returns. If this is truly the case, it must be reported to the IRS as a change in charitable purpose.
The application for property exemption was denied because tax authorities were not convinced that the Jesters qualified as a charity, based on the museum claims, under Indiana law.
Rogers appealed the decision and convinced the Indiana Tax Assessment Board of Appeals that the Jesters are an appendant body of Masonry. Both parties entered into a Settlement Agreement in January, 2007 that stipulated a 100% fraternal tax exemption for the year 2005, otherwise the Jesters would have had to cough up about $12,000 in property taxes.
When questioned about Jesters activities, Rogers deferred inquiries to "Royal Director" Gene Best and Texas attorney Ron Pruitt, both of whom have not returned phone calls or responded to questions.
Pruitt appears to be responsible for incorporating the International Royal Order of Jesters in Texas in 2003 and for obtaining the International Royal Order of Jesters 501c3 charitable classification from the IRS in 2004. Pruitt listed the same address he's reported to the Texas Bar Association as the Jesters headquarters address on the group's application for IRS non profit status.
Coincidentally, both Rogers and Pruitt appear to be practicing law out of Jesters' headquarters. Both have listed their business addresses and phone numbers with the Indiana Supreme Court Roll of Attorneys and the Texas Bar Association as Jesters' headquarters in Indiana and Texas.
Nonprofit groups are prohibited from providing personal benefit to anyone.
Pruitt was fax-asked why he, as Chairman of the Jesters' Jurisprudence and Laws Committee, was included on a letter sent by "Royal Stage Manager" Dennis Schueler to Jester Frank Baillie, informing him that the Jesters had "directed the abolition of all Jester-related bulletin boards and internet sites. The primary reason behind such action was the desire of the Board to minimize the extent possible, our public exposure or its access to Jesters information." Pruitt has failed to respond and explain why a non profit group would want all bulliten boards and internet sites taken offline.
When questioned about the letter, Scheuler denied all knowledge and abruptly hung up. When given another opportunity to answer the questions via email, Schueler replied:
"I do not believe I have any information that would be of help to you. Please stop harassing me!"
Since Jesters functions have always been listed on the Imperial Council's annual session agenda, questions about the group were sent to Shriners corporate communications director, Alicia Aargiz-Lyons, who, like the others, failed to respond. Oddly, the 2008 Imperial Council tentative schedule does not list Jesters functions.
So, the second question is:
Why would a nonprofit group with a naked thingy-popping mascot refuse to answer questions and demand such secrecy?
Is the answer in a 2005 complaint that was sent to and investigated by the Grand Lodge of Texas?
It was written by a long time Shriner/Jester who claimed the anonymous moniker "Sam Houston" because "What I am about to portray to you could endanger my life and the life of my family." It alleged that "During the initiation of new Jesters I was offered the opportunity by another fellow brother to sleep with a whore, even though I had a wife and kids waiting for me to come home."
The complaint also alleged that:
•Prostitutes were available for Jesters to have their way with
•Brothers had sex in front of other brothers
•Brothers held oral sex competitions
•Potentates, Chaplains, Attorneys, Judges and Past Masters were Jesters
•Sex, illegal gambling and alcohol were the preferred order of business
Not that messing around, holding oral sex competitions, getting snot slinging drunk and gambling your butt off is a bad thing, but to allegedly do so as a nonprofit group?
The complaint continued that "the Jesters pride themselves in having control of all leadership positions at all of the Shrine Temples in the U.S. and Canada as well as the Imperial Shrine leadership. Also, they have risen through the ranks in every body of Masonry including the Scottish Rite, York Rite, Rosicrucians, Red Cross of Constantine, Eastern Star and the Demolay Organizations."
The complaint asked the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Texas to investigate the Jesters for:
•Actions which disgrace Masonry
•Indulging in the intemperate use of intoxicating liquor
•Willfully abandoning their families
•Cohabiting with lewd women
The investigation yielded no prosecutions.
No wonder the Shriners kept quiet as members who have been accused of violating Shrine law have been "tried," kicked out or sued.
Or maybe they were scared of losing their eyeballs, having their feet sliced open and getting the plague?
The Shriners Oath makes candidates "promise, swear and vow that they will never reveal any secret part or portion whatsoever of the ceremonies" and if they do, they will "incur the fearful penalty of having my eyeballs pierced to the center with a three-edged blade, my feet flayed and I be forced to walk the hot sands upon the sterile shores of the Red Sea until the flaming sun shall strike me with livid plague."
No wonder their membership has dropped by 60% the past twenty five years.
Kind of like thinking you had $100 in your wallet and finding only $40.
So, is any of the complaint true?
"Oh, yeah, it's all true," said John Doe, a former Jester who also fears for his life, though he and Sam Houston would be protected as whistleblowers under the post-Enron Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
"The Jesters sole purpose is to party and spend lots of money," Doe explained. "Some of these clubs are sitting on hundreds of thousands of dollars. Why should an organization like this be granted tax exempt status?"
"Many state Grand Masters' of Masonry are Jesters," he continued. "So when the Jesters are investigated for lewd, explicit sexual behavior, they are investigated by one of their own. There are lavish parties where the wives can attend with some very nice gift given to each Jester's wife or Lady attending. The 'Stag' parties are the 'Dark' side of Jesters. Most wives know no detail with respect to the 'Stag' parties."
So, is any of this against the law?
Could the Jesters be committing state and federal tax fraud if International and the individual clubs continue to file inaccurate and incomplete tax returns? The IRS might also want to see why Rogers and Pruitt appear to be practicing law out of Jesters' HQ as well as investigate the Jester's charitable status after Indiana tax authorities initially denied their property tax exemption application. If the IRS suspended the Jesters charitable status, those who took potentially fraudulent deductions could also be investigated for tax fraud.
Have the Jesters filed incomplete or inaccurate tax returns? And is the IRS serious about the disclosure of nonprofit executive compensation?
The 990 gives nonprofit groups ample opportunity to disclose such compensation in a "fill in the blanks" kind of way. At issue are the Jesters' fraternal 2005, 2004 and 2003 tax returns that report "Directors Expense" as $31,865, $24,778 and $31,116, respectively. Whether this was paid to the executive director Alex Rogers, or another director, the Jesters failed to report this compensation in at least three other "fill in the blanks" sections. The Jesters also failed to report that both the fraternity and charity share the same building, services, board members and employees.
The clubs' tax returns aren't much better. The Royal Order of Jesters, Court 113 in Summerville, SC inaccurately told the IRS that their exempt purpose is "Helping Crippled Children." Other courts fail to disclose their organization type and as well as things like program accomplishments and program service expenses so no one really knows how they justify their tax exempt status nor how much it costs to do so.
Jesters International and all clubs, as well as the Masons and Shriners, have also hidden their affiliations by failing to tell the feds that they are "related through common membership, governing bodies, etc, to any other exempt or non exempt organizations."
In other words, the IRS wants a complete picture of how a nonprofit group operates and who they operate with. The Masons, Shriners and Jesters seem to want to keep their relationships secret.
The Masons use the symbolism of masonry to teach moral and ethical lessons of the principles of "Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth." Maybe the Jesters are seen as the way for Masons AKA Shriners to get true relief through brotherly love as they get drunk and allegedly mess around on their wives?
So, if you read that some Shriner is bragging about being a member of the Royal Order of Jesters, maybe it's because he just wants to put the "potent" back into Potentate.
This list of Jesters contacts is based on nonprofit/tax exempt information that is of the online public record made available by the federal government as compiled by www.taxexemptworld.com:
WILLIAM DEMLADE (list continues)
Tell The Truth JonesSandy:
The Shriners have for many years led the public to believe that they were "an American Sacred Cow" that took care of the cripple and burnt kids and the public always gave then Millions of Dollars, years after year. Your investigative stories and the New York Times have confirmed and documented that the Shriners Leaders in each and every Shriners Temple need to be investigated by the FBI, IRS, US Attorney, and if they have done wrong in any way, they should be brought to justice by the laws of the United States. The same Shriners Leaders prosecute their own members for asking questions about Finances. Where there is smoke, there is fire. If I were a Shriner Leader, I would be a very nervous person wondering when the Feds were going to visit with me. Keep up the excellent work.
Well, at the very least, both organizations should be independently audited and publish the results. The real problem is that Shriners operate according to a set of laws that supersede the laws of the land and have done so for decades without anyone challenging them. This places them above the law and, more importantly, above non profit law AKA the IRS.
The other problem is that investigations of this magnitude take alot of man power as well as resources. The answer is pay off. What is the pay off for the agency or politician who might want to investigate these guys? Headlines? Huge fines? Then it gets more complicated because everyone has an agenda. The public should demand that investigators do their job without agenda to enforce the law and protect consumers from such non profit groups. Did I say consumers? It should be victims, to include the children who suffer and die in the hospitals, unsuspecting donors, faithful members who really think they are helping support the hospitals and the taxpayers.
Then there will be the battle of public opinion. It appears that when confronted with controversy, the Shriners spin machine begins to work overtime. Looks like they launched a $14 million spin campaign a few months ago. I don't think the Shriners could spin or schmooze their way out of tough questions asked by congressional committees or agencies like the IRS or FDA or OHRP or SEC. We saw that approach blow up in Roger Clemens face last week.
Remember, the crime is never as bad as the cover-up. This is where the Shriners have made some mistakes, by taking their treasurer's association minutes offline and the Jesters showing a sudden, uncharacteristic and unreported interest in Shakespeare.
Whoever steps up to the plate and says "Enough is enough" will have to have some big cahones. They will need to have the bigger, stronger and smarter dog in the fight because the Shriners have misused their charitable contributions to viciously wear down, intimidate and retaliate against those who report crimes instead of going after those who commit the crimes. Fortunately, all the tracks along the paper trails have been cast in cement and all authorities need to do is follow the path. I doubt any Shriner leader will do the right thing by going public and saying "Something is wrong and we will work hard to fix it." They are more likely to feign ignorance so they can say "It didn't happen on my watch."
Thanks for letting me share my opinion,
Bill-220736If only the wives and family members knew what the Jesters are all about, I do not think in one's obituary, they would proudly state the deceased was a member of The Royal Order Of The Jesters. Keep up the exp[osure until the IRS and other governmental agencies investigate. Maybe the tax paying citizens will benefit.
Sandy FrostThank you for your comments. At the end of the day, this is really about the Shriners' lack of non profit transparency, accountability and disclosure, for which we all pay.
Masonic AvengerIts all true Here is a reply I received after posting your article:
"As far as the Jesters, when I worked at the Imperial Palace as a beverage manager I have memories of the parties that they have and trust me that is no joke. The party hard like that. Just a first hand account if you needed one."
Masonic AvengerHmm... the AASRSJ Mobile, Al GAVE away their building which covered a half-city block for $200,000.00.
It was sold because the SGIG directed it sold. Valley of Mobile moved and started raising money to build a new temple smaller and in the style of a Blue Lodge. They raised $100,000.00. The Personal Representative for the Valley stole the money.
FACT look it up he was tried and convicted in federal court. The SGIG tried to keep a lid on it so the state-wide membership would not know what happened.
FACT the SGIG caused a major split in the Valley of Huntsville when he ordered the by-laws changed and gave them a copy of what he wanted passed. He caused many other related problems within the Valley and a major Blue Lodge supporter to the Valley.
FACT he did the same all over the state he ordered that his by-laws would be passed which gave him complete control of everything within each Valley. The Valley's can vote a line of officers and he has the power to say no I want these people in the line. Which he has done.
FACT the Valley of Huntsville Honor Court sent several letters to the Supreme Council about the SGIG and his activities. The GC formed an investigating committee of the SGIG's of FL, GA, TN and they reported back that he had did some wrong and the SGIG told the GC he would block all elections if they tried to do anything to him.
FACT The SGIG did his best to cause a split with SR and YR in Birmingham which he did. This was done in an effort to run off men of great character within the SR Honor Court so he could fill positions with yes men. The Valley of Birmingham has gone from 4500 members in 1993 to less than 1900 2005. Honor men that he ran off are now at YR committed men doing what they can for Masonry.
FACT The Valley of Birmingham at his direction put their building up for sale but could not sell it because he would not reply to many offers to buy. This Valley will be gone soon because of the declining membership and the lack of money to operate it. He steps on anyone he cannot completely control or asks him questions about their Valley. As the former Almonder said "Brothers ask about where your money is going" this great brother was treated less than human in open LOP by this SGIG this brother sadly left something he was committed to for over 50 years.
Is this what being a mainstream Mason is suppose to be? a destroyer a controller, a back stabber?
BrandtSir, You are doing nothing to support any of your views, or to negate any of Sandy Frost's views. I see that you are obviously upset over what she has written. I recommend that you either counter it with facts or research it to find someway to intelligently counter her arguement.
Be a spokesman.
Masonic AvengerThe mainstream protectors are all narrow-minded, intolerant bigots he just proved how backwards mainstream Masons really are..
Masonic AvengerSandy has done the most through documentation on the misus of funds by the Shriners that has ever been done. Now the dots need to be connected with the whole truth; Grand Lodges, Blue Lodges, Scottish Rite most of the money raised by these groups go to themselves. Its just a matter of time until it all unravels the money, the self-interest, the racism, the bigotry....
John-962167I am sorry that so many of you are uninformed who do you think supports without any source of repayment from their patients 22 hospitals located across the United States, it certainly not the Boy Scouts. It is unfortunate that you lump everyone into the same pot.
Thank you for your comments. I am sorry that so many of you are uninformed about the Shriners' secret sub-group and member's links to sex crimes.
We'll know more when those two Jesters are sentenced on May 6 and 7.
And it's unfortunate that you haven't read enough of my work to realize that I do not lump everyone into the same pot.
Sandy FrostThank you all for taking the time to read these articles. This type of investigation takes so much research, documentation and verfication that I truly value your kind comments, observations and support.
Jack-248977How can we look at your research as reliable when you intentionally slant the interpretation of the "Billiken" animation as "animating his 'thingy'."?
It's obvious that it's a blinking belly-button, as high-lighted in other pictures on the same page and other locations. It is not his "thingy".
By intentionally attempting to bias the reader in a negative way, you demonstrate that you cannot be trusted as an objective researcher/reporter on this topic. You may be indeed reporting facts, but because of this demonstrated bias the reader has to conclude you are simply expressing opinion...and that opinion may be wrong or have an agendum.
Rightly or wrongly, that single minor act impugns the credibility of your entire article.
Sandy FrostMy explanation of an animated gif fails to discredit two investigative articles about the Jesters that have now been backed up by a front page story that ran in Sunday's Buffalo News that describes an FBI investigation into the Royal Order of Jesters for links to prostitution.
Thank you for your comments.
This discussion is ended.
David-133040Americans are sleep walking into their own coffins
I know quite a few Americans most are ashamed of their Govt.
They all feel helpless,overwhelmed and distraught.
I don't blame them ,they are about to lose it all.
R A AI'm interested in the facts, but not in slanted facts. Please allow us to draw the conclusions from objectively reported facts. Inflammatory writing helps no one.
And this Billiken character -- what else can you show us other than photos of toys?
FlotsuumHow about copyright infringment. I pinched this from the web site of Saint Louis University, "Please Note: All images of the Billiken are registered trademarks. Approval from the Collegiate Licensing Company and Saint Louis University is required for usage." Think the Jesters licensed this image? Me either.
craigsarizonaShe has many flaws in her reporting..not only of the Shriners. I still wonder what they did to her to make her soooo negative. Maybe she should spend her time going after the real criminals...the Indian casinos!
Sandy FrostFurther comments of a racist nature about any minorities will be deleted.
cudaI can see where it may be seen as its thingy.Not by the brass bilikins but the animated one at the bottom.
So attacking her for implying its a thingy is weak.Seems the Satan worshiping dirt bags are trying to make light of this article.Sorry sleaze bags but this is only a small bit of information on you and your secret societies.
Yup we should go after the indian casino's and their nickel slots and such.Its not like they deserve a little compensation.After all it was the Illuminati (members of the government)That have broken every treaty ever made with them.More like go after the Mafia ran casino's in Nevada.
Sandy FrostAgain, thank you for your comments.
Keep coming back.
Jack-248977Cuda, I have absolutely no association with Shriners, don't even have any involved relatives that I know of.
I did not "attack" the writing or the author. Attack is an extremely strong word. I critiqued the use of biased presentation in an investigatory article, and pointed out that once an author strays from simply presenting the evidence, the author loses credibility. By doing so, the author may even hurt the argument the author is trying to support.
It is better for an investigatory author to present the facts and if one is presenting an opinion, then it should clearly be labeled as an opinion.
The available EVIDENCE leads one to conclude the "thingy" is a belly-button, not the organ strongly implied by the article. To present it as anything but an innocuous belly-button incorrectly introduces negative bias. It calls upon a reader's potentially strong moral values to flavor the reader's interpretations. That is a method used by people trying to influence others via emotional tactics, not intellectual evaluations. That is not an acceptable manipulation in true investigatory reporting.
Sandy FrostMy interpretation of an animated gif is negative bias and cause to discredit my investigative reporting? According to an informal Masonic poll, 46% of those polled agree with me.
Your comments are noted and this discussion is ended.
Sandy FrostThanks to all of you who are so concerned with my integrity and credibility.
And thanks for your observations on investigative journalism.
If my work upsets you, don't read it.
If you want to counter it, start your own Newsvine column. Then you can practice your own brand of journalism as so many of us do here and share your observations in the Newsvine group that is right for you.
Here's a little secret.
Writers write. Readers read. And my writing style is my own. If you want to write your own investigative articles according to your rules, then type away.
In case you have not kept up with things, journalism is evolving as quickly as writers can publish their work online. I have been helping evolve new media journalism since 2001 and now am part of a hybrid news delivery system that is so hot that MSNBC bought Newsvine last October. I recommend that you read each and every one of the 24 articles that I have published. Then read the front page New York Times article about Shriner finances that ran a year ago. After that, it might dawn on you that this document-driven investigation is concerned with non profit transparency, disclosure and accountability.
If you do this, then you might realize that you are directing your comments to the wrong person.
You should question the Shriners and Jesters about what is and is not reported on their tax returns.
And if you read my previous articles, you will realize that I was asked by Shriners to investigate the Shriners. This investigation does not target those Shriners who work hard to support the illusion that they are needed to raise money for the hospitals. This is not about the Shriner who has devoted decades to proudly support his fraternity. This is not about the Shriner gets up at zero dark thirty to put on clown make up to put a smile on the face of a badly burned child. This is not about the Shriner who cleans up around his club or temple. This is not about the Shriner who works hard to support the fraternity and wears his red fez with pride.
This is about those who use their positions of public trust for private gain. This is about those who know about crime in the temples and clubs yet fail to prosecute it because they don't want their names in the newspapers. This is about those who raise tens of thousands of dollars for the hospitals and fail to report it on their tax returns. This is about those who silence, punish and sue those members who allege crime instead of prosecuting those who commit the crimes. This is about those who use charitable donations for personal mortgages without declaring this on the non profit corporation's tax returns. This is about fraternal groups who violate civil rights law by including members according to racial and sexual discrimination. This is about those who are sworn to uphold the law but in the face of ongoing crime, turn their heads to protect the brotherhood. This is about those who advise Shriners to violate HIPPA laws. This is about those who operate the Shriners hospitals with such little oversight that they are sent warning letters from the FDA and Office of Human Research Protection because of repeated violations. This is about those who party at tax payer expense.
If you read this entire series, you may then, like so many others, demand accountability and that these Masonic groups return to the basic principles that each person practice self control, that each person be a good citizen and obey the law, that honor and integrity are essential to life and that it is important to make the world a better place to live.
Until then, try move beyond your knee jerk reactions and attempts to discredit as you defend against that which was exposed and documented in these last two articles about the Royal Order of Jesters. Thank you,
Dan HerbeckSandy...I am a reporter with the Buffalo News in Buffalo, NY. We are looking into a recent incident involving the Jesters. I don't know much about the organization. If you can contact me, I would truly appreciate. And if anyone else reading this post has information that they think I should be aware of -- either positive or negative about the Jesters; I want to hear both sides -- please contact me at email@example.com.
Sandy, your research on this issue is very interesting...Thanks, Dan Herbeck, Buffalo News
Curious onlookerMs. Frost I have read your article, and decided to do some digging on my own because the points you make were somewhat discomforting to me. The first gid I did was to follow the link in your article to the website for the Royal Order of Jesters. What I don't understand is you say the organization is secret and claims to be a charity. But their web site claims otherwise. here is a quote straight from their web site,
"The Royal Order of Jesters proudly believe and participate in Masonry.
Whereas most Masonic bodies are dedicated to charity, The Royal Order of Jesters is a fun "degree", with absolutely no serious intent. The motto, 'Mirth is King," is sufficient to give voice to the purpose of the organization. The Royal Order of Jesters feel that there are times, after our hard work and dedication to family and mankind, everyone should remember to laugh and appreciate the good work you have done.
The original meeting resulting in the formation was held on February 20, 1911, by Shriners on a pilgrimage to Aloha Temple, Hawaii, in the Captain's office of the "S.S. Wilhelmina." Noble A.M. Ellison of San Francisco, California, was responsible and the original cast included a Director and thirteen members. It was organized June 25th, 1917, at an informal meeting. Jesters are made from members of the Shrine in good standing, membership is by invitation only, not application."
There is no claim in this statement of being a charitble organization nor anything other than a group of people who get together for fun and friendship? Where in this are they misleading anybody?
As for applying for tax exempt status, I am would know nothing about what there motives are other than to reduce their tax liability. Now be honest is that not the motive of most hard working Americans?
I know nothing about you as a person, but it seems you have a personal agenda with this group. Ok fine!
Please be honest however, dont pretend you are doing a public service by writting what appears to a thinly disguised attempt to sway public opinion of something or someone for your personal reasons.
Sandy FrostIf you go to Guidestar.org you will find tax returns the Royal Order of Jesters, both charitable and fraternal. You would think that a charitable group would be proud of their status and would work hard to get donations, but, as you so clearly point out, the ROJ home page does not mention that they are also a charity. Today's nonprofit groups strive to embrace best practices by dedicating themselves to the highest standards of disclosure, transparency and accountability. In an effort to do so, they will post things like their charter, bylaws, articles of incorporation, financials to include tax returns, a donor bill of rights, organizational structure and their policies on ethics, diversity and governance. Neither the Shriners or Royal Order of Jesters do so.
This article is a natural part of my investigation into the Shriners and if you read the entire investigation or at least my recent article entitled "Two Years On," you will see that my main concern is non profit accountability, transparency and accountability. If you take the time to read the Buffalo News front page story that ran this last Sunday, you will read how the FBI is investigating the Royal Order of Jesters for links to prostitution. If the Royal Order of Jesters is such a stand up organization, why did a former Supreme Court justice resign after the newspaper reported that he, his law cleark and a retired police captain were being investigated by the FBI for allegedly taking a "female massage parlor employee in a motor home to a gathering of members of a nationwide group called the Royal Order of Jesters." The comment before yours is from Dan Herbeck, one of the journalists who wrote the story. Sunday and Monday, his was the most popular story according to Buffalo News polls. Today, it's the paper's fourth most popular. My latest article describes how 19 members of the Royal Order of Jesters have been called in a federal court case to testify about their first hand knowlege of illegal drugs and child prostitution in relation to a fishing trip they took to Brazil, written off at tax payer expense. Since publishing this article last Thursday, its newsworthiness has been proven as nearly 15,000 have read over 20,500 pages. Before posting any more comments of this nature, accusing me of some sort of personal agenda, do your homework and read this entire series. Then get a hold of Dan Herbeck and the management of the Buffalo News and question them about their personal agenda. Then call the FBI agent named in the article, Paul Moskal, and ask him about his personal agenda. The question that you should be asking is "Should the Royal Order of Jesters be afforded the luxuries of non profit status for the purposes of, according to the Buffalo News, transporting prostitutes across state lines so they can party at tax payer expense?"
If you think this type of behavior is ok, fire off a letter to the editor of the Buffalo News. Oh, and make sure to question them about their personal agenda.
I can see no way the Brazillian trip could have been tax deductable. What evidence might you have that the trip was considered a charitable deduction?
You seem to be suggesting the Jesters may have improperly claimed an IRS status as being both fraternal and charitable. I am not a member of the Jesters and know no one who is. However by eading the web sote of the ROJ I see no reason why they would not be both a fraternal and a charitible organization... that is have both classifications in two related organizations. The Jesters clearly are fraternal to that there shoudl be no question. As far as having a legitimate charitable purpose the museum certainly qualifies them for that. However your statements elsewhere that dues or travel expenses to their events are deductible is an error. I see only gifts to their museum are clearly deductible.
Randy DeGoiaI enjoy these articles for their insight, Sandy. I have friends (6) who are Mason's and Shriner's (have no idea if any are Jester's) and have spoken informally about this information. Their take on it is that EVERY organization has its bad apples but don't feel that the corrupt activity of a few has been institutionalized - at least not to the extent that you have written. They continue to work hard at raising money for the Children's Hospitals donating 100% of whatever money they raise at a charitable event. To a man they all stated they do NOT write off any dues to any masonic organization as a tax deduction for income tax purposes. They didn't believe they could do that. As for this Jester's orgainization - the impression I got from them is they have heard of it (maybe some even belong), but that, for the most part, it is an organization that is non-masonic and has nothing to do with the shrine or masons beyond having membership in those two organizations as part of its requirement for initiation. Their weak analogy was 'similar to requiring being over 50 to be a member of AARP' or 'being a college graduate to get certain jobs.'
Continue the good effort, Sandy. Your articles are interesting to read insofar as shaking up a staid institution that, many feel, has outlived its usefulness to young men (hence the reason most of these guys are in their 70's and 80's!). From my very limited research they don't exactly reach out to guys in their 20's or 30's!
Charles E. MartinI am a Shriner (inactive). I have never been a Jester. I believe that you have only scratched the surface. Please keep up the good work.
Sandy FrostThank you. I think that the FBI has picked up the ball and is running with it. Actually, I think that the Buffalo News has reported that the FBI has been investigating this prostitution case for nearly a year and a half? At this point, it's difficult to know what is going on behind the scenes but after the retired police chief/captain pled guilty to a felony related to transporting prostitutes across state lines to Jesters party's, I think that that judge Tills and his law clerk Stebick will now spill their guts and surrender to the mercy of the courts. Things are definitely going to heat up and I think that within the next three months, other journalists will smell the blood in the water and will begin their own digging.
The Jesters have always been the Shriners/Masons weak link. How long can their leaders claim "It's an isolated incident" and "We don't do this type of thing"? At this point, I suspect that records are being destroyed but emails are permanently stored on servers and there are paper trails leading to who paid whom how much when and why?
Once the feds match up what Trowbridge tells them with what Tills and Stebick tell them and they know where to look, it's just a matter of time before this house of cards tumbles down.
Phillip-261446Sandy , I am a proud Freemason , but I abhor the antics of the Shrine , or should I say some of it's members . I am an outspoken critic of the Shrine and I believe it's time that we (Freemasonry) break it's ties with the Shrine . I'm personally tired of the black eyes we receive from their childish activities , and hearing from people when they find out that I'm a Mason " Boy , you guys throw some wild parties out there at the Shrine " . Keep up the good work posting the truth and maybe we(freemasons) can put enough pressure on the Shrine that they will break away from our Fraternity .
Sandy FrostI was wondering of any pressure had been put on the Shriners after the Grand Masters' conference?
If the Shrine does break away, it may be to protect the Royal Order of Jesters.
Thanks for your comments,
AJ-284315"Billiken" who, when shown animated online, appears to have his, uh, thingy popping up and down as he blinks.
It's not want you think it is that pops up when Biliken when he blinks, its a Jewel in his bellybutton! If you read on the same page as your link leads, it will tell you the story of Biliken.
If you are going to do your reporting, better get your facts right before you mislead others. Just a suggestion.
Not a member of ROJ
Sandy FrostAgain, my interpretation of an animated gif is not misleading.
Anita-304201I'd like to know if the Jester's are an associate or a sister club to "The Emporer's club" and how many other clubs are under the protective Umbrella???
I'd also like to know more about the rings of judges and attorney's, court appointed social workers, psychologists, and Law Guardians that are orchestrating child custody switching to abusive dads who exploit their own children sometimes into kiddie porn, etc. NYS seems to have a few issues with over-confidence, but of course NYS is just one of the many.
I'm betting that there is a strong association between the Male Supremacist - Fathers Rights movement including the former HHS-ACF Wade Horn, and the long list of cronies who profit on feeding our children to the wolves, then severely punishing the protective mothers for fighting for their kids. I'm also betting that there are governors involved who'd make Elliot Spitzer look like a clean boyscout compared to their hidden agenda. Matter of fact one could start looking seriously at the governors who support the fraudulent PAS - parental alienation cover theory for child sexual abuse created by pedophile psychiatrist --- Richard Gardner who advocated pedophilia, incest and whatever deviant stuff these guys can dream up. Gardner's not the only one either, there are lots of psycho - or pseudo psychologists & psychiatrists out there who participate in the clubs; there is alot of money in it !!
You might be interested to read the article I wrote about the depositions provided by two fishing guides. It can be found here. One of the fishing guides alleged that the "Masons" requested girls as young as 13.
Thank you for your comments,
Amy J-322974Ms. Frost-
Before creating A LOT of negativeness about the 'Jester's' and their stupid acts, please look at what they do DO, for the kids, for their community, as well as each other. They offer support (finncially AND socially AND emotionally), they understand that WITHOUT their wives ("ladies") these 'Jester's' are NOTHING!! I do not for ONE second condone their behavior, I find most of it apaulling, but as a lady of a 'Jester', I do FEEL it is a neccessary outlet for the men of their organizations. I totally agree that 'Mason's' who "Request" women (or in some cases CHILDREN) are bringing shame, disgrace and ludicrious behavior to an otherwise respectable organization! I have seen Shriner's do GREAT work and while YOUR facts are overshadowing it, you should be commended on doing A LOT of long hare hours of research, however Ms. Frost, this is America and I have a right (as an American) to disagree with you, and not only READ your article, but post my OPINIONS. I suggest you go to one of the Shriners burn hospitals as well as one of the orthopedic hospitals (they are ALL over the U.S.A.) and then and only THEN can you get on your high horse about the ickyness of the people and make certain that all the organizations assocaited with the 'Shriner's' and the 'Mason's'. The organizations are more than just the illegal behavior they are accused of, ACCUSED of-they are innocent until proven guilty (despite the hard facts).
Thank you for your time. Respectfully yours,
Sandy FrostThank you for your comments Amy.
Yes, you are right, the Shriners do good things. This is about those who don't.
This investigation has gone from investigating the possibilities of widespread tax fraud and corruption and retaliation against those who demand accountability to the fact that Shriner leaders are members of a group linked to prostitution and child sex tourism via the federal court system.
The courts and law enforcement are doing their jobs as they pursue those who violate these laws, regardless of their fraternal and charitable affiliations. One can't hide behind the children after being caught by the FBI for driving prostitutes across state lines to Jester parties. One can't tell a federal judge they won't testify about their first hand knowledge of illegal drugs and minor prostitution while on a fishing trip to Brazil because they help burned and crippled children get free medical care.
Law enforcement and the courts won't minimize or excuse criminal behavior because the suspect is a do-gooder, though this is what you and others seem to suggest.
It is my job to report on what is happening in the courts and with law enforcement.
If I don't do my job, how will you or anyone else know about the Jesters involvement with prostitution and the possibility that some of them might be involved with child sex tourism?
This comment section is for those who want to comment on specifics found in each pertinent article. If you wish to make comments, point out specifics instead of telling me how good the Shriners are or telling me about your rights to post your opinion or telling me about being on some high horse.
Your comments need to stick to the code of conduct. Your comments need to stick to the article at hand.
If you created a Newsvine account to just make comments about my articles and give me your opinions, then you are defeating the purpose of signing up to become a member of this community.
If you want the world to know how good the Shriners are, then populate your Newsvine column with articles of this type.
Having said that, you need to either read this entire investigation or read my article "Two Years On." Then you can write well-informed comments that are based on the information presented because you actually know what this investigation has found.
And make sure that you write to those at the Buffalo News who have been reporting about the Jesters FBI prostitution story and tell them the same things you just told me.
You don't want to seem like you're singling me out, right?
Dr KnowThe "Jesters" are insiders group in my understanding. They are not ALL Shriners but they have to be Shriners to belong.
Sandy FrostI don't get it.
"They are not ALL Shriners but they have to be Shriners to belong."
Dr KnowNot ALL Shriners are Jesters. Not all Shriners do the things the Jesters do. But all Jesters are recruited from the Shriners. I was not clear before.
Sandy FrostOh. Thanks! And yes, you are right. Sadly. Thanks again, Dr. Know,
My response to your article was only AFTER I had read a rather LARGE selection of your articles on the actions of "Masons" and "Shriners" and "Jesters" and I read these articles two or three times, so that I could make certain I FULLY understood the point they were conveying and could form an opinion other than "a knee jerk response" as you put it so eloquently. I agree with your facts, they are hard to dispute, while I had a vague Understanding that actions like this were bound to happen-you have BAD apples in ALL organizations-your articles(s) made it abundantly clear that it went farther than I first thought! As for specifics, it is WAY too broad to dictate because you, too, seem to lump ALL "Shriners" together under the stupid actions (to put it VERY mildly!) of a few, also. I also wish to point out that, the "Masons" is not a cult, they have NEVER hid their actions (some "Jester's" may hide their actions, but-again-to lump all members together is wrong). Maybe I should post a column to refute the findings of you, but I have BETTER things to do with my time, like raising THREE boys NOT to follow the inappropriate, not to mention illegal (to the point where those that are guilty of sexual acts with a minors and the requesting of girls for their dirty pleasure should rot in He double hockey stick) but you should have the time to post a column (if you chose to do so) that reports ALL the facts -good AND bad-legal AND illegal-and not group all members together under the actions of a few bad apples.
Thanks again for your time!!
ombraAs a suggestion, instead of complaining about the reporting, try doing something about those who are causing the problems. The vast majority of Shriners are trying to do good. Why let the few destroy what you are trying to build?
Get mad, but get mad at the problem, not the messenger......
Sandy FrostThank you ombra.
If you want an inside look at what I've had to put up with, you might want to read Scott Butki's interview with me here. Thank you again,
Sandy FrostAmy, Your comments, repetitive as they are, have been noted.
You have had your say.
AJ-284315>Again, my interpretation of an animated gif is not misleading.
Sandy, you have it as a fact then? That his "thing" is popping up and down and not a jewel in his belly button? Please state your source of this fact.
Facts are facts
Interpretations are just opinions and those can be misleading.
I appreciate your articles on the Jester's. My Husband at this time is going through the initiation process.
I have always had a pretty good gut instinct. The scary thing is I am usually right. So I started researching the Royal Order of Jesters. And this is how I came across your articles. The only positive thing I could find was actually nothing but on the other hand none of this has happened in the Mid-West that has been public knowledge. All I know is anything that excludes your wife and is very secretive can not be a good thing.I have friends husbands that are Jesters and this is how my husband was invited in. The out come has not been good. As far as I am concerned go ahead with this initiation game but after that it is OVER !!!
If my husband chooses to continue to share the Mirth it will be as a single man. I DON'T SHARE !!
And just for the record all I had to do was read their creed and Shakespear Bull to know what they are all about.
Katie-676987I would like to know how to get a schedule of events. My husband joined the Jesters last year. It seems since than he has been going hunting, fishing or last minute business trip's much more often . I would like to see for myself. I have brought up to him what I had learned and he seems to deny or make excuses. I have spoken to some other wives and they seem not to be educated as well. Some of the Ladies and I are going to take our own trip to see what's really going on. If we could find out ahead of time were they were going.
Ex Jester girlas a woman that was one of the traveling girls with the Jesters. "WIFES" you should be very worried. They are having oral sex, and intercorse with these girls every week end. at every stag party. In every state, in every city that has a jester court. The courts that have a traveling court do so as a way to avoid getting caught. There is not a court in the country that does not have prostitutes at their partys. This is a known fact from the top to the bottom. Starting from the current Royal Director, and all past ones. These are nothing but drunken, naked, sex parties, and nothing more.
concerned wifewives of jesters should be concerned
i got a bit suspicious when i came across a phone number and a woman's name that was in attendance at one of the "stag" weekends...i did a little research came up with the woman's email address and i created an email account with a name that sounded like i was in the business and asked her questions and she actually gave me answers about being put up in a motor home, out in the woods, being naked, etc.
i don't think all the men get involved but they are there and do know its going on, how could they not when they are out of touch with their wives for that weekend event that happens all around the united states....even if they aren't involved they are supporting it and that is not good especially when their wives are at home while they spend the money to go do "what happens here stays here" type of thing
If the Jesters and Shrine in this circumstance have nothing to hide, then why do those under scrutiny not come forward and open their financial records and personal actions to Federal, state and Masonic review? Next, all the discussion about the "billikin" seems like a smokscreen, a red herring, designed to diminish the reporter's credibility and shift focus from the real issue. Anyone with half a wit should be able to catch on to the "wink and a nod" that there is more to that little gargoyle-faced false idol than a belly button. Last, if this stuff is remotely true, rapid removal from the fraternity and jail time as appropriate, and sincere apoloigies would be in order. Another name for a coverup can be criminal conspiracy. History clearly shows that denial in such matters can only harm the larger organization. It is time to let the light of knowledge do its work.
Sandy FrostThank you uscanoe for your thoughtful comments.
uscanoeMinor revision: please add "repentance and restitution" after "apologies" in first post.
Next, thanks to Ms. Frost for bringing this to public attention. For the record, I am a 3rd Degree Mason (nothing more) and member of the Grand Lodge of Iowa. The type of behavior Ms. Frost and others have reported on the part of the Jesters is inconsistent with all Masonic principles that I know of. Such behavior simply can not be tolerated by Masonry nor by society. Masonry can be self-correcting as indicated in the book "Free Masonry in Iowa," by Keith Arrington. His chronicle unflinchingly points out when and where Iowa Masons crossed the line. I hope and pray that Masonry and our legal system do not flinch, but instead correct the wrongs that have been commited in this sorry situation and prevent such events from ever happening again.
uscanoeOne more revision after mulling this over last night; in the sentence above, I will add that this situation is not only sorry, it is abhorent and appalling. I reiterate that it is contrary to those Masonic principles that I know. I am disgusted by the both the known and alleged behavior. I pray that the victims are comforted and healed and the perpetrators are brought to justice. It is time to clean house. EOM. uscanoe
I have read your articles and all of the comments in this blog. I was not going to reply but I changed my mind. I have been a Mason for over forty years and I am involved with every branch of the fraternity. I am not a Jester. I thought I would let you know what the Masonic Lodge has meant to me over what seems a life time. I joined the Lodge when I was 24 years old after serving my Country during a war no one could understand. I had just been married and had just started a career with a company, where I stayed for 38 years. My Father and I joined the fraternity together. Other than my Father some of the best Mentors I have ever had came from and are part of the Masonic Lodge. These Men provided me with Life Tools that you can not get any any where else. The Masonic Lodge is not a building, or a symbol, but is men willing to help a man be all he can be. I know to this day that I am a better father and husband because of what I have learned from the members of my Lodge. I have helped my wonderful wife raise 5 boys and 1 daughter and I love them and respect them in ways that can not be measured. My family comes first in all things, and because of that I would not be part of something that would bring shame to my Family.. With that said let me tell you Sandy what I know. As an active member of the Lodge and Shrine it has been my experience that these Orders are very family oriented. They also confirm my belief that there is something in life greater than me, and that I will have to answer some day for my actions.
While it is your job Sandy to report facts as you discover them, people also need to understand that the Masonic Lodge, and Shrine has helped countless Men and Women and Children with every day problem solving. As the Treasurer of one of the groups I can assure you that every dollar taken in, can and is accounted for, and that our taxes are paid. As the check writer I have written countless checks to families in need in our community both in and out of the Lodge. We help children in our hospitals everyday, Free of Charge
I could go on and on, but I will not justify being part of something that has helped me in so many ways, to be a better person. I am a proud Mason who served his Country, who has a family that brings joy, to my life everyday.
As a Shriner I was asked to join the Jester's. I choose not to join. I could not get enough information to make an informed decision. I will not jump into the Fire. I do know they like to party. I was not aware of of the Girls on call..
I believe the Law of the Land prevails, If a crime is committed someone needs to go to Jail.
Thank you for your comments and presenting "the other side." I agree that there are many good things about Masonry. My Dad was a Mason.
What is unfortunate is that the Grand Masters seem to be silent on these matters. Instead of putting their foot down, they seem to be sticking their heads in the sand.
In fact, this is how the Shriners are reacting too. Heads in the sand, hoping all of this will go away.
I don't think that's going to happen and once the national media begins to cover the hospital closures, the other journalists will come to this site and will learn that the Shriners aren't what they appear to be.
#46.1 - Thu Apr 2, 2009 1:26 AM EDT