‘Three Cups of Tea’ Author Commits Suicide

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December 3, 2012; Source: Washington Post (Associated Press)

NPQ has been following the story of Greg Mortenson and the Central Asia Institute (CAI) since April of 2011. The CAI is the nonprofit founded by Three Cups of Tea co-author Greg Mortenson for the purpose of building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. You may recall the allegations that Mortenson fabricated parts of his best-selling book; this resulted in a lawsuit that was dismissed by a federal judge. In addition, the CAI was damaged after a report by the Montana attorney general found numerous violations at the charity, including some that the report said resulted in personal financial gain for Mortenson.

This past summer, in accordance with the terms of a legal settlement, the charity ushered in a new board to try to close the book on its troubled past and get out of the headlines for non-mission-related news. But now that troubled past is again rearing its head, as Three Cups of Tea coauthor David Oliver Relin has committed suicide according to an Associated Press (AP) report citing Multnomah County, Ore. medical examiner Peter Bellant. There is no indication as to whether the allegations surrounding Three Cups of Tea played a role in Relin’s death, but the AP points to a court filing from Relin’s lawyer, Sonia Montalbano, in August of 2011 in which Montalbano said the lawsuit surrounding the book “has had a negative impact on Relin’s livelihood as an author.”

Relin was a talented writer, as the popularity of Three Cups of Tea suggests. He had previously objected to Mortenson being listed as a coauthor on the book, which Relin wrote based on his interviews with Mortenson. Relin was not a subject of the Montana attorney general’s investigation of the Central Asia Institute—an organization that, try as it might, cannot seem to escape getting press for all the wrong reasons. –Mike Keefe-Feldman

  • eyeneversayno

    Of all the victims of fraudster Greg Mortenson, no one paid a higher price than David Oliver Relin. May he rest in peace.

    As for Mortenson and and the Central Asia Institute (CAI), the MT OAG found CAI spent $4 million buying copies of his book, while Mortenson pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars in royalties from the purchases made with the charity’s donated funds. The OAG also found Mortenson had spent $2 million of donated money on private jet travel for himself and his family, while often being personally reimbursed for these travel expenses by even sponsors, the OAG called it double dipping. That’s $6 million in charitable contributions Mortenson misspent, and that’s not even considering the millions CAI spent promoting his books to the general public, for which Mortenson received millions in royalties.

    The MT OAG report is here: