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.
Earlier this month, Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock announced a settlement with Mortenson and CAI in which the author is required to pay $1 million in restitution to his own charity “for his past financial transgressions.”
According to the attorney general, under Mortenson, CAI made bulk purchases of his books at retail prices with charitable funds that were donated to build schools in southwest Asia. At the same time, Mortenson received and kept royalties from those sales.
CAI also used charitable funds to pay expensive advertising costs for the books. Mortenson also accepted travel fees from book event sponsors at the same time CAI was paying all his travel expenses using charitable funds donated to build schools.
The Montana attorney general did not examine the alleged fabrications in Mortenson’s books.