A WHALE OF A TALE FROM INSIDE HSUS

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1995:

WASHINGTON D.C.––Fired on
August 11, according to one Humane Society
of the U.S. senior executive and numerous
staff, HSUS vice president for investigations
and legislation David Wills remains officially
“on administrative leave,” amid an apparent
board-level power struggle.
ANIMAL PEOPLE sources within
HSUS indicate that HSUS president Paul
Irwin and some board members want Wills
out; John Hoyt, president of Humane Society
International and Wills’ longtime patron, purportedly
wants to keep him. HSI is the
umbrella for HSUS and numerous affiliates.
HSUS/HSI board chair O.J. “Joe”
Ramsey is said to be heading a probe of accusations
that Wills misused funds and sexually
harassed subordinates. A corporate attorney
in Sacramento, California, Ramsey has
served on the HSUS board since 1975; his
arrival roughly coincided with that of Irwin.
Ten days after the September edition
of ANIMAL PEOPLE detailed complaints
against Wills by many current and former
HSUS staffers, we received a letter from
Washington D.C. media lawyer Stuart
Pierson, charging we had made “defamatory
and false statements about Mr. Wills” by
“asserting that Mr. Wills was fired.”


But hours before our September edition
went to press, our HSUS senior executive
contact told us, “They’re calling it some
thing else, but he’s fired.”
“Is he being paid?” ANIMAL PEOPLE
asked.
“The pay he’s receiving is his severance,”
we were told.
Pierson on behalf of Wills also
demanded that ANIMAL PEOPLE s h o u l d
“immediately correct…other such assertions
concerning Mr. Wills,” without specifying
what Wills thought was in error.
We requested particulars of Wills,
both through Pierson and through HSUS, but
received none. We also repeatedly requested
particulars of Hoyt and Irwin, but likewise
received no answers.
Errors
We were told of two errors in our
coverage by Sandra LeBost, of Royal Oak,
Michigan, who is now trying to collect
$42,000 Wills owes her in settlement of her
claim that he failed to repay funds and valuables
borrowed from her in connection with
starting the short-lived National Society for
Animal Protection in mid-1989. One error
was misidentifying as a mediation judge
Circuit Court Judge Steven Andrews, who
signed the motion for judgement in LeBost’s
favor. Andrews ratified the recommendation
of three independent mediators. The other
error, according to LeBost, was that the
mediators recommended that Wills should
pay $15,000, not $21,000, to plaintiffs
William and Judith McBride, in a parallel
case originating from loans made in 1991.
Wills apparently plans to contest that case,
contending the McBrides entrusted him with
funds as investors, not as lenders.
ANIMAL PEOPLE also discovered
that the reason a house couldn’t be
found at the address Wills gave the court in
the LeBost case was an apparent slip by
either Wills or the recording clerk: Wills
reportedly said he lived at 2614 Chain
Bridge Road in Washington D.C., but actually
lives at 2416 Chain Bridge Road.
Otherwise, the only claims of error
in our coverage reaching us by deadline
came from California animal rights activist
Sherry DeBoer, who claims to have introduced
Wills to his present wife. DeBoer
took issue with our reporting that “in June,
Hoyt and Irwin, both former clergymen,
presided over a lavish Mexican wedding for
Wills and Lori White, former wife of PETA
president Alex Pacheco, now a volunteer for
the Washington Humane Society.”

Cheap wedding?
According to DeBoer, the wedding,
on the roof of an apartment building in
Puerto Escondido, was held in Mexico
because “Lori couldn’t afford a wedding like
that in Washington D.C.,” even though, “it
was anything but lavish,” featuring “wilted
gladiolas.” The only guests, DeBoer insisted,
were Hoyt; Irwin; Humane Society of
Canada executive director Michael
O’Sullivan; Congressional representative
Charles Wilson (D-Texas), White’s former
employer; Jill Rooney, her current employer;
veterinarian Hugh Wheer and his wife
Cynthia; a Mexican veterinarian and his
wife; and DeBoer plus her date. “Lori made
her own dress,” DeBoer said. “It was a typical
funky animal rights people occasion.
There was one dinner, after the wedding,
and it was nothing lavish, with a very cheap
cake with cheap frosting. We all had cats
and dogs eating off our plates,” because,
DeBoer recounted, the wedding party spent
their four days in Puerto Escondido rescuing
strays. She also said they hired a team of
carriage horses for four days, to give them
the time off.
ANIMAL PEOPLE q u e s t i o n e d
DeBoer closely about the itinerary, because
as she repeatedly outlined it, no one in the
wedding party did any sightseeing in Mexico
City or spent any time there, either on the
way down or on the way up. They did stay
overnight in Mexico City, DeBoer allowed,
on the way back, but “We all stayed in the
hotel next to the airport. We bought big baskets
to sneak in all the animals we were taking
back.” DeBoer said the rest of the party
flew back to Washington D.C. early in the
morning, while she had to wait another
seven hours to catch her flight to northern
California.
Willy/Keiko
The itinerary was important, as in
an August 15 appeal to membership, O.J.
Ramsey––purportedly probing the use of
HSUS funds in connection with the wedding––wrote,
“Just recently, Paul Irwin,
HSUS president, visited ‘Willy’ at the
Reino Aventura theme park in Mexico City.
I asked Paul to make this field visit immediately,
and to prepare a special report to all
HSUS members and donors. Although we
had originally intended for the Report [ s i c ] to come directly to you from Paul in Mexico,
unavoidable postal delays made it necessary
to forward it through our headquarters in
Washington D.C.”
The accompanying 450-word
report, dated August 8, enclosed in a replica
Mexican envelope, consisted almost entirely
of facts about the orca star of the 1993 hit
film Free Willy! already published thousands
of times in hundreds of media. “I can provide
additional details, if needed,” Irwin wrote,
“upon my return to Washington D.C.”
Possibly Irwin went back to
Mexico in August. But he certainly didn’t
provide any additional details to us, in
response to our inquiries. Neither did Earth
Island Institute and Free Willy/Keiko
Foundation president David Phillips either
confirm or deny Ramsey’s assertion that
“HSUS is working with the Free Willy
Foundation to help raise the $10 million
needed” to complete new quarters for Keiko
at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.
“And, when we release ‘Willy’ to
his original family group off the coast of
Iceland,” Ramsey continued, “hopefully
some time next year, he will be the first
whale ever to be freed.”
Preceding that appeal, HSUS had
evidenced only peripheral involvement in
Keiko’s situation. Earth Island Institute has
been the lead organization behind the Free
Willy/Keiko campaign ever since EII was
generously plugged at the beginning and end
of the Free Willy! video.
Iceland says no
Moreover, said Johann Sigurjonsson
of the Marine Research Institute of
Iceland, “The government of Iceland has
repeatedly decided in recent years not to permit
reintroduction of killer whales into
Icelandic waters who have been subjected to
animal life in distant parts of the world for
prolonged periods of time. This is because
such a reintroduction could lead to the transfer
of foreign bacterias or other infectious
agents with unknown consequences for the
local ecosystem or individual animals, and
because of the uncertainty regarding how an
animal kept in captivity for most of his life
would survive in the wild.”
While Free Willy/Keiko campaign
leaders have claimed, “Experts are scanning
the waters off Iceland to try to find the family
he was taken from at the age of two so they
can be reunited,” Sigurjonsson stated that,
“Anyone conducting research on killer whales
off Iceland needs a permit. To my knowledge,
the appropriate authorities in Iceland
have not been contacted, nor have they issued
any permits to conduct such studies.”
More recent statements from the
Free Willy/Keiko campaign assert that “Vocal
and DNA analysis will begin in October in
Iceland to locate Keiko’s family.” Just how
the investigators will analyze wild orca DNA
without capturing some orcas has not been
explained.
Meanwhile, though no captive
orcas have been returned to the wild as yet,
many smaller captive whales have been
released: 380 through 1994, according to
Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale
Research, who is reportedly leading the
search for Keiko’s family. Of the 380, 32
were dolphins from marine parks similar to
Reino Aventura. HSUS was even involved in
the release of the dolphins Rocky, Missie,
and Silver, who in 1991 were transported
from the defunct Brighton Dolphinarium in
England to a seapen off the Turks and Caicos
islands in the Caribbean, rehabilitated, and
released with much fanfare.
Hungry dolphins
“I have been trying to research the
fate of these animals,” British marine mammalogist
John Dineley posted to the MARMAM
online forum on September 8. “It
appears that this is unknown, although it is
known that Silver had to have medical aid
and food supplementation two weeks after his
release.”
Balcomb claims Silver was seen
and identified by markings in early 1994.
Ramsey’s appeal made no mention
of three former U.S. Navy dolphins who were
transported from San Diego to the Sugarloaf
Dolphin Sanctuary in the Florida Keys in
December 1994, to be prepared for release
by Ric O’Barry of the Dolphin Project. As
Sugarloaf and O’Barry became embroiled in
a nasty public dispute with former partners in
the simultaneous rehabilitation of three dolphins
from the Ocean Reef Club in Key
Largo, HSUS seemed to back away. “They
don’t send us money, they don’t come down
here––I don’t know what their role is,”
O’Barry complained to ANIMAL PEOPLE.
“They were here when the cameras were
here, and I haven’t seen them since. The
Navy dolphins are now ready to go free. I
want to release them soon, without a permit
because I don’t think I need one, but I can’t
release them if HSUS still claims a proprietary
interest in them.”
On September 13, O’Barry faxed to
HSUS vice president for wildlife John
Grandy, “SOS––We need help in the care
and feeding of the ex-Navy dolphins. What
exactly are your responsibilities, from your
point of view? I continue to prepare them for
release back into the wild. Buck, Jake, and
Luther are excellent candidates, and I am
confident this project will be successful. If
you choose not to help us feed the animals,
please let me know as soon as possible. I will
look for help from other groups.”
As ANIMAL PEOPLE went to
press on September 18, O’Barry hadn’t
received an answer.
Wills & Hoyt
Meanwhile, the ANIMAL PEOPLE
telephone rang often as readers and people
who heard about the David Wills situation
through the grapevine called to describe their
own experience with him. According to a
perhaps apocryphal account circulated
through the HSUS internal grapevine since
the mid-1980s, Wills, apparently a native of
Baltimore, became involved in humane work
in the very early 1970s when he walked up to
a table where longtime HSUS staffer John
Dommers was soliciting funds, asked what
Dommers was about, and observed, “Sounds
like a pretty good scam.” Dommers reputedly
introduced Wills to John Hoyt.
Hoyt, with little evident background
in humane work, became HSUS
president in 1970, giving up a 13-year career
in the ministry. Irwin, apparently a ministerial
acquaintance, followed Hoyt to HSUS
about five years later. Ordained a Baptist in
1957, Hoyt preached in Allen Park,
Michigan, until 1960, when he moved to the
First Presbyterian Church in Leroy, New
York. He then served as senior minister at
the Drayton Avenue Presbyterian Church in
Ferndale, Michigan, until 1968, when he
earned his doctorate in divinity and assumed
a post as senior minister at the First
Presbyterian Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
New Hampshire
The story in the grapevine for at
least six years holds that Wills came from a
broken home, had a juvenile record for
breaking-and-entering, and a troubled early
marriage, and that Hoyt saw him as a
redemption prospect––and surrogate son, as
Hoyt has four daughters but no sons. But in
January 1990, Wills told ANIMAL PEOP
L E editor Merritt Clifton that he had no
police record. The only trouble he was ever
in, he said, was that “When I was 19 years
old, I faked a resume. I’ve been punished for
that many times,” he continued. “So I’m not
a perfect person. So what?”
Horse and collie fancier/breeder
Barbara Schwartz of Holland, New
Hampshire, remembers what seems to be that
resume incident. Wills arrived with Hoyt’s
recommendation to head the Nashua Humane
Society in 1972, she told ANIMAL PEOP
L E. Reputedly just divorced in Maryland,
he was said to be the youngest person ever to
head a U.S. humane society, and quickly
won a reputation as both a lady’s man and an
aggressive fundraiser. “He practically blackmailed
the city into building a new animal
shelter,” Schwartz said, “with piped-in
music and not enough dog runs.” But she
allowed that the shelter was needed.
Schwartz and other dog fanciers
“tangled with Wills pretty early,” Schwartz
continued. In 1978, according to her files,
Wills moved to put local Docktor Pet franchise
owner James McKay on the board of
directors. Wills reputedly sent people who
came to the shelter seeking purebreds to
McKay’s store. The local dog fancy objected,
obtaining a letter from Hoyt to the effect that
putting a pet store owner on the NHS board
might constitute an unadvisable conflict of
interest. The fanciers also “got Wills’ resume
and checked it out,” said Schwartz. “He
claimed to have a masters degree in journalism
from the University of Maryland. False.
He claimed to have worked for the
Washington D.C. Humane Society. False.”
On October 9, 1978, Schwartz
stated, the fanciers confronted Wills at a
meeting. “Wills boasted he was the king of
the killers,” Schwartz went on, “and claimed
he could do euthanasias faster than anyone
else. That didn’t scare or amaze us. We had
all culled puppies and were used to it.”
Soon thereafter, according to
Schwartz and other longtime New Hampshire
dog fanciers who were involved with NHS,
Wills departed, just ahead of the threat of a
statutory rape charge. NHS money turned
out to be missing. How much money?
Schwartz estimated “probably about
$10,000.” Others whom ANIMAL PEOPLE
interviewed claimed it was more like $2
million, an unlikely figure for an organization
the size of NHS, especially at that time.
Wills declined the chance to comment
again on the allegations, but in January
1990 his recollection was that he took on the
local breeders over pet overpopulation, showing
them the reality of euthanasia.
Wills and Schwartz continue to tangle.
In 1992, Schwartz said, Wills attended
a meeting of the U.S. Combined Training
Association, sanctioning body for the
Olympic three-day equestrian competition,
which includes dressage, endurance, and stadium
jumping. “He said he’d have the threeday
competition thrown out,” Schwartz
remembered. “My daughter was involved in
that event. I was put on the committee to
meet with Wills and review the HSUS objections
to it. He never showed up.”
On September 6 of this year, HSUS
president Paul Irwin urged International
Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio
Samaranch to cancel the three-day event
scheduled for the 1996 Olympic Games in
Atlanta because, “We have concluded that it
is simply not possible to hold an Olympic
three-day competition in the seasonal heat
and humidity of Atlanta without recklessly
endangering the lives of the horses.”
Equestrian competition experts
worldwide consider the HSUS position silly.
The majority of Olympic equestrian competitors
and their mounts have traditionally come
from hot, humid climates: Latin America,
southern Europe, and the southern U.S.
Michigan
Whatever happened in Nashua,
Wills left behind a woman with whom he’d
been living, believed by some fanciers to
have been a second wife, and in 1979
became executive director of the Michigan
Humane Society, again with Hoyt’s recommendation,
bringing along Nashua assistant
Joan Witt. The Nashua nastiness was apparently
unknown to the MHS board until 1982.
Then, Schwartz recalls, “He was on local
TV with a blind collie, attacking breeders,
and said he got her from me. I’m from
Michigan. My friends and family saw that
broadcast. My uncle, now deceased, was a
lawyer. We sued Wills, and eventually won
about $15,000, which I donated to charity.”
Schwart said the collie actually came from
NHS, and had never been one of hers.
A Detroit TV station aired a report
on Wills’ Nashua history in 1983, but MHS
sources believe the threat of legal action
deterred other media from delving deeply
into it––as did Wills in the 1990 interview,
claiming the TV report was based on bogus
information supplied by Schwartz.
Wills’ friends in Detroit included
then-attorney Deday LaRene, now disbarred
and working for HSUS. LaRene’s wife at the
time was then-MHS attorney Sienna LaRene.
Wills and the LaRenes were close almost
from the day Wills arrived in Detroit, says
Sandra LeBost, then and now an MHS volunteer.
They shared a love of fast cars:
LaRene had Ferraris, Wills a Corvette.
When the LaRenes divorced, Deday married
Joan Witt, who preceded him into an HSUS
post; Wills and Sienna were also “a number”
for a while, recalls LeBost. Even after relocating
to Florida, Sienna LaRene kept her
$70,000-a-year MHS job, commuting by jet.
In 1987 Wills and Hoyt proposed to
merge MHS into HSUS; HSUS would have
run MHS as a model shelter network, and
would have gained hands-on involvement
that might have aided fundraising. The terms
resembled those of the deal HSUS proposed
earlier this year to take over the Washington
D.C. animal control contract from the
Washington Humane Society––a deal reportedly
negotiated by Wills and LaRene, put on
hold when Wills was put on executive leave,
and apparently scrapped in mid-September.
The MHS/HSUS merger was
shelved in 1988, about the time syndicated
columnist Jack Anderson published a threepart
series detailing how HSUS gave Hoyt a
rent-free house, loaned Irwin funds with
which to buy beachfront land in Maine, and
paid both Hoyt and Irwin salaries in the middle
six figures, at a time when six-figure
salaries in humane work were still scarce––
although Wills told ANIMAL PEOPLE editor
Merritt Clifton in September 1989 that
MHS had paid him $100,000.
Retaliation
Frustration that the merger fell
through may explain Hoyt’s otherwise inexplicably
harsh reaction when Clifton, then
news editor for The Animals’ Agenda, called
to get his response to the Anderson columns.
Instead of sharing his side of the story, Hoyt
called ANIMAL PEOPLE publisher Kim
Bartlett, then editor of The Animals’ Agenda,
and threatened economic retaliation if any
article about the Anderson columns appeared.
When the article appeared on schedule, Hoyt
cancelled an HSUS subsidy to The Animals’
A g e n d a of $5,000 a year; apparently
arranged the termination of funding from the
Elinor Patterson Baker Trust, reputedly controlled
by HSUS; and later, after follow-ups
appeared, cancelled HSUS advertising in The
Animals’ Agenda.
HSUS staff have been officially forbidden
to speak to either Clifton or Bartlett
ever since the 1988 episode––but many call
and write anyway.
Missing money
As ANIMAL PEOPLE reported in
our July/August edition, Wills on June 15,
1989 proposed to the MHS board that they
should form a “National Center for Animal
Protection” along similar lines to the National
Society for Animal Protection, which Wills
founded on his own in August 1989, with a
start-up gift of $10,000 presented by Hoyt at
a public ceremony.
Meanwhile, on June 19, 1989,
Wills resigned from MHS, along with board
members Paul Henecks, Robert Sorock, and
TV personalities John Kelly and Marilyn
Turner, as the board became aware of a
deficit eventually estimated at $1.6 million.
Kelly and Sorock, also on the HSUS board,
joined Wills, Hoyt, Turner, Sienna LaRene,
Joan Witt, and Julie Morris, now director of
shelter outreach for the American SPCA, as
members of the NSAP board.
In November 1989, former MHS
bookkeeper Denise Hopkins was bound over
for trial in connection with the missing MHS
funds. She was eventually convicted of
embezzling $60,000. Wills testified that
Hopkins admitted to him that she had forged
documents pertaining to a $450,000 trust
account, a $250,000 line of credit, and a pay
raise for herself of $10,000 a year. Staff
writer John A. Basch of the Macomb Daily
reported on November 15, 1989, that “Wills
is himself under investigation. Part of the
continuing investigation centers on that
$250,000 line of credit, which allegedly was
secured with forged documents and forged
signatures of humane society board members.
During cross examination, Wills admitted
that some of the credentials listed on his
resume were ‘lies,’ and said that he also lied
about a felony conviction for breaking and
entering.”
Still Animals’ Agenda news editor
in January 1990, Clifton looked into the case
at the request of Michigan subscribers. Wills
and Sienna LaRene called the Basch article
false and libelous, and said the M a c o m b
D a i l y had published a retraction, but produced
no documentation of that. Wills also
said MHS “was fully covered by insurance
against employee theft,” and would not “lose
a cent from donations.” But MHS executive
director Gary Tiscornia, who succeeded
Wills, and then newly appointed MHS
accounting manager Chuck Korotka both disputed
that. They erased the deficit by instituting
a longterm repayment plan for creditors,
and by cutting $500,000 a year in jobs
and salaries from the MHS budget.
Censored
On January 22, 1990, Clifton filed
a 400-word report with Bartlett, who cleared
it for publication later that day. A N I M A L
PEOPLE board member Patrice Greanville,
then the third member of the A n i m a l s ’
A g e n d a editorial board, signed off on the
report the next day. But at the last minute,
t h e n -Animals’ Agenda board members
Wayne Pacelle, Holly Hazard, and Don
Barnes intervened to keep it from going to
press. Pacelle had authored a highly flattering
profile of Wills published by A n i m a l s ’
Agenda in May 1988. Wills, who became an
HSUS executive after NSAP was absorbed
by HSUS in 1991, influenced Hoyt and
Irwin to hire Pacelle, Aaron Medlock, and
Bill Long away from the Fund for Animals in
April 1994. Hazard resigned from the
Animals’ Agenda board in 1991 following
Clifton’s disclosure that the organization she
heads, the Doris Day Animal League, has
never spent less than 68% of its budget on
direct mail appeals–– more than twice the
norm for animal-related advocacy groups.
Barnes resigned from the Animals’ Agenda
board soon afterward, when he was caught
forging Clifton’s name and signature on an
incendiary memo to Hazard.
The unpublished Animals’ Agenda
report didn’t include the most explosive
material Clifton obtained during the 1990
investigation: statements of MHS staff alleging
Wills had sexually harassed and physically
intimidated them. Asked about the allegations,
Wills acknowledged having sexual
relations with subordinates, but denied that
harassment or coercion was involved. Those
allegations were not mentioned because the
sources, claiming fear for their physical safety,
refused to go on record.
Jimmy Hoffa
Yet another Jack Anderson expose,
mentioning Wills and the MHS deficit, failed
to head off the 1991 absorption of NSAP by
HSUS. On August 9, 1991, the Detroit Free
P r e s s mentioned that NSAP board member
Marilyn Turner, wife of NSAP and HSUS
board member John Kelly, had been questioned
by a grand jury probing a defunct
employee leasing firm called Atlantic
Western. Atlantic Western collapsed in
March 1990, leaving workers in eight states
responsible for millions of dollars in unpaid
medical insurance claims. Turner, the Free
Press said, was asked “about payments that
Atlantic Western made to a TV production
company she owns. Turner’s son Dean,” a
former pro hockey player, “was one of
Atlantic Western’s original owners,” the article
continued.
President of Atlantic Western was
John Burge, nephew of longtime Teamsters
Union boss Jimmy Hoffa. Burge, a former
Teamsters official, was convicted on
October 2, 1991 on seven counts of taking
bribes from trucking companies in 1984-1985
to insure labor peace. The Atlantic Western
assistant chief executive and labor consultant
was Rolland McMaster, Hoffa’s longtime
closest associate, who served five months in
jail in 1966 for taking employer kickbacks.
Neither Dean nor Marilyn Turner
was mentioned again in connection with the
Atlantic Western case, and Kelly was never
mentioned. But another Wills associate had a
link to Jimmy Hoffa from a different direction.
Among Deday LaRene’s many noted
clients, also including the late Michigan Ku
Klux Klan grand dragon Robert Miles, were
Vito Giacalone and his son, Billy-Jack
Giacalone. Vito was identified as a member
of the Mafia in Congressional testimony as
far back as 1963, and in 1987 was named by
the FBI as one of the eight members of the
ruling council of organized crime in Detroit.
LaRene began representing the Giacalones in
1975, when they were called before a federal
grand jury probing the disappearance of
Jimmy Hoffa earlier that year. Hoffa vanished––while
nominally in federal custody––shortly
after testifying to another federal
grand jury which was investigating
Mafia activity in New Jersey.
On September 16, 1992, both
Giacalones and LaRene were indicted for
conspiracy and tax evasion. On June 16,
1993, under the headline “Missing key witness
holds up federal trials,” the Free Press
reported that, “Albert Allen, of Warren, a
key witness in the cases against Vito
Giacalone and attorney Deday LaRene,
hasn’t been seen since April, according to
court documents.” Allen was officially
believed to be in hiding. The Free Press
archives don’t tell whether he ever turned up.
The case never did go to trial.
Instead a probe of LaRene’s influence in the
U.S. attorney’s office moved ahead. On
November 23, 1993 a jury cleared U.S.
Justice Department lawyer Theodore Forman
of obstruction of justice, but convicted him
of criminal contempt, the Free Press reported,
“for disclosing secret grand jury materials.”
Wrote Free Press staffer Jim Schaefer,
“Forman admitted copying more than a thousand
pages of documents, including names,
addresses, and phone numbers of witnesses––and
funneling them in 1992 to reputed
organized crime leader Vito Giacalone, who
was being investigated along with his attorney,
Deday LaRene, in an Internal Revenue
Service case. Forman’s mother, Helen
Formanczyk of Grosse Pointe Park, ran up
large gambling debts. Her husband could not
pay them off” after she was convicted and
sentenced to 11 years in prison for delivering
1.2 kilos of heroin in a bid to erase the debts.
“The Mafia,” Schaefer went on, “through a
longtime friend of Forman’s, implied the
debts would be forgiven if the 30-year-old
tax lawyer helped Giacalone.”
Forman’s attorney, Steve Fishman,
claimed no one was harmed by the leak of
witness information.
On December 21, 1993, LaRene
took a plea bargain. According Detroit News
reporter Brenda Ingersoll, “In return, the
government agreed not to prosecute him
‘concerning his potential exposure in other
investigations.’ Those investigations included
an obstruction of justice probe into the
theft of confidential Justice Department
reports involving Giacalone. The reports
were found in Giacalone’s office with
LaRene’s fingerprints on them.”
Vito Giacalone accepted a similar
plea bargain a few days later. He began serving
a three-year prison term in June 1994.
Wills testified for LaRene at his
sentencing hearing on May 4, 1994. “To see
him put away for a year where he cannot use
his brain for the betterment of society,”
Wills proclaimed, “is an egregious miscarriage
of justice.”
LaRene served the year anyway,
joining HSUS upon his release.
Ron Schmidt
In 1988, about the time Michigan
Humane board members were becoming
alarmed by rumors of missing money, Wills
set up an elite fundraising team called ‘The
Challengers” in a downtown office, under
newly hired director of development Ron
Schmidt. Within months, however, Wills
dismissed Schmidt and dismantled “The
Challengers.” Schmidt went back to his old
job as development coordinator for
CareGivers, a Detroit in-home social service
organization––but many people involved
with MHS remember that before he did,
when he knew he was about to be fired,
Schmidt asked other staffers what they might
know about Wills’ alleged use of recreational
drugs. Schmidt intimated to certain sources
that he might have plastic pen cylinders from
Wills’ desk which had been used as cocaine
straws. No source ANIMAL PEOPLE h a s
located seems to know whether Schmidt ever
took that purported evidence to police or a
prosecutor, but he reputedly did take a list of
related allegations to members of the board.
Schmidt left Detroit in 1990 to
become director of development at Tufts
University, outside Boston. On October 17,
1992, 31 days after LaRene and the
Giacalones were indicted, Schmidt was
found dead in his Stoneham home. “Because
Schmidt had terminal cancer,” the B o s t o n
Globe reported on October 23, 1992, “police
initially did not consider his death suspicious.”
But an autopsy revealed Schmidt had
died from repeated blows to the head. Police
and other investigators didn’t search the
house for clues until October 22, five days
after the killing. Middlesex District
Attorney’s office spokesperson Jill Reilly
said they found no hint of either a motive or a
suspect. Apparently no one inquired––at the
time––into Schmidt’s involvement in the case
of the missing MHS money, or asked if
Schmidt had been named in the grand jury
documents turned over to LaRene. A N IMAL
PEOPLE did learn that some law
enforcement agencies may be asking such
questions now, albeit perhaps only because
they were asked if they had asked them.
The Schmidt family posted a
reward of $5,000 for information leading to
the conviction of the killer, then boosted it to
$10,000 a year later. Despite calling a number
of people with the same names as family
members, ANIMAL PEOPLE was unable
to locate any family member to ask if leads
had surfaced. ANIMAL PEOPLE did pick
up a suspicion among some sources that
Schmidt’s death had perhaps not been vigorously
probed because he was openly gay.
Apart from “Who done it?”, the big
question remains: why murder a person who
was going to die soon anyway?
Wills, Hoyt, and Irwin were asked
by fax on September 11 if they knew or cared
to comment about the Schmidt case, but did
not respond.
Follow the money
The flamboyance of the allegations
involving Wills and friends overshadows the
unanswered questions about the extent of
HSUS/HSI financial dealings with former
financial radio talk show host I.H. “Sonny”
Bloch, recipient of HSUS’ James Herriot
award in 1989 and a member of the HSUS
board from January 1991 until early 1995.
Bloch is now in federal prison awaiting a
series of trials, beginning with a federal
court suit alleging that Bloch helped to
defraud at least 280 investors from 33 states
of a total of $21 million. In a parallel case,
Bloch faces eight counts of tax fraud, perjury,
and obstruction of justice. He fled to
the Dominican Republic in March 1995, but
was extradited back to the U.S. on May 26 to
stand trial. He is reportedly also under federal
investigation for alleged statutory rape,
which would indicate that the case––in which
charges have not been filed––involved transporting
a minor across state lines.
After the September issue of A N IMAL
PEOPLE appeared, describing
Bloch’s situation, Irwin is said to have gathered
the HSUS staff for a terse briefing. “He
said, ‘Sonny Bloch is still our friend,’” ANIMAL
PEOPLE was told. Attendees were
also warned against speaking to the media. A
memo some recipients attributed to Wayne
Pacelle backed up the warning by stating that
anyone who talked to ANIMAL PEOPLE
would be fired.
ANIMAL PEOPLE received a tip
from a respected Capitol Hill source that
Irwin had personally participated in transactions
involving both Bloch and football great
John Riggins; that Irwin and Riggins together
held a controlling interest in a private
financial institution; and that HSUS funds
might have gone through that institution. But
an involvement of the Paul Irwin of HSUS
with Riggins, reputedly an ardent hunter,
sounded unlikely. Irwin didn’t respond to
direct inquries. Financial experts ANIMAL
PEOPLE consulted were unable to turn up
details on the affairs of such an institution.
But ANIMAL PEOPLE did find a
pair of Philadelphia Daily News a r t i c l e s ,
published on July 1 and September 1, 1986,
describing how, “The Trustees’ Private
Bank, a bank so private that it has no cash
and no tellers, has just launched the
Pennsylvania Trust Company.” Vice president
in charge of trusts administration for the
new institution was one Paul Irwin, recruited
from Glenmede Trust along with Richardson
T. Merriam, a behind-the-scenes power in
Pennsylvania Republican politics. Glenmede
Trust manages the estates of millionaires and
the eight Pew family charitable trusts, whose
assets were then estimated at $2.2 billion.
Best known for supporting biomedical
research, the Pew Trusts have also assisted
some animal welfare charities.
Pennsylvania Trust would do “trust
and investment management for high networth
individuals.”
Could Paul Irwin of HSUS both
help run a bank for the ultra-rich and run
HSUS? It would seem a tall order. But
again, Paul Irwin of HSUS didn’t say yes or
no, and ANIMAL PEOPLE so far hasn’t
turned up any information that either clearly
confirmed or eliminated the possiblity.

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