Andy Warhol's Art Academy CFO Dies In Jail
Andy Warhol's Art Academy CFO Dies In Jail Protesting His Innocence
Heirs will continue multi-million dollar suits against trustees in State and Federal Courts
New York, NY June 4, 2008: John Blumatte, aka Robert Angona, aged 67, former Chief Financial Officer of The New York Academy of Art (NYAA,) died of bone-marrow leukemia in a Kentucky Federal prison last weekend after serving two years of a 4-to-8 year prison sentence received for embezzling funds from the school. Angona, as he was known in news reports of his sentencing, maintained his innocence every day of his jail term and made a dramatic deathbed deposition, weeks before his painful death. The Academy was founded in 1980, by Andy Warhol and Stuart Pivar, both Emeritus Trustees of the School.
Angona’s conviction was reverse and he sued the NYAA under the RICO (conspiracy) Act and for damages. In a recent three-day long death-bed deposition Angona told his grim tale, to five New York attorneys. It starts with his hiring in 2002 by Stephen Farthing then dean of the NYAA. Farthing hired Angona on the orders of Randy Lerner, Chairman of the Academy and billionaire-owner of the Cleveland Browns. Angona swore Farthing and Lerner needed someone “who wouldn’t ask too many questions” to “straighten out the books” over a mysteriously unaccounted for $1.6 million of NYAA’s endowment.
Angona affirmed under oath that Lerner and other NYAA Board members knew of his criminal past but turned a blind eye as they pressed him to reconstruct the Academy’s chaotic financial state at any cost.
Angonas colorful background included a number of “white-collar” financial scams, but he turned into a model Controller for the NYAA. He hired and trained the Academy’s current CFO and installed state-of-art computer systems. He managed intensive inquires of State and Federal Regulators. Angona even brought in Douglas Grover, Esq. (former head of the Brooklyn organized-crime strike force) to enforce compliance to cure financial violations. At the time Angona was hired, violations were grave enough to have landed criminal charges on NYAA’s “society name” Trustees.
All would have been well if Richard “Bo” Dietl, celebrity private eye had not been hired by Andy Warhol’s NYAA co-founder, Stuart Pivar. Acting on suspicions that events had taken a turn from mere mismanagement to the seriously criminal, Pivar personally hired Dietl who quickly uncovered Blumatte/Angona’s past.
Angona maintained that certain Trustees panicked after his true identity came to light. Adding to that panic was an extremely embarrassing international feature written by Sharon Churcher in London’s ‘Mail on Sunday’ linking the Blumatte/Angona mystery to the schools patron, HRH Prince Charles. It was then, Angona swore under oath that, through conspiracy, Farthing lied to the Grand Jury. Farthing swore to a Grand Jury he “knew nothing” about contracts he had personally signed with Angona for NYAA’s new computer system (cost $75,000) and swore that Angona embezzled that and other money. Angona conveniently became the prime suspect in the mystery of the ‘missing endowment million plus’ and financial irregularities which occurred before his arrival at NYAA.
Angona served two years of the eight year sentence before he was cleared of that crime by order of Judge Stephen Schwebel in 2006. He remained in prison on a federal probation violations but filed a multi-million dollar RICO action against Trustees of the New York Academy of Art Board and its general counsel, Jeffery Slade, Esq.
Angona spent the rest of his short life in prison attempting to prove his innocence and fighting the previously quiescent cancer that erupted soon after his arrest and became chronic under the harsh conditions of the prison system.
Angona’s heirs stated today that they plan to continue the lawsuits brought by Blumatte against past and present trustees including David Levenson, Eileen Guggenheim, Christopher Forbes amongst other as well as Stephen Farthing and Randy Lerner.