The probe, run out of the DA’s cyber-crimes unit, is looking into a possible “money trail” linking San Francisco’s Olivet University and executives at Newsweek Media Group, the magazine’s parent, according to a source close to the company.
Olivet was founded by followers of a controversial Christian fundamentalist church headed by Korean-American pastor David Jang, who has long been rumored to have helped finance IBT Media — now known as Newsweek Media Group.
IBT Media co-founders Etienne Uzac and Johnathan Davis, the company’s ex-CEO and ex-chief content officer, respectively, have consistently denied any financing link.
Amid a 2016 cash crunch at IBT in North America, Uzac was replaced as CEO by Dev Pragad — who had been running the more fiscally sound London-based international arm of IBT Media.
About two-dozen investigators from the Manhattan DA’s office spent about seven hours in Newsweek offices on Thursday — eventually leaving with 18 computer servers.
Newsweek Editor Bob Roe tried to assure worried journalists in the newsroom on Friday that the probe was not aimed at reporters’ sources and was not connected to stories published by the magazine.
The raid was the latest chapter in a 17-month-old grand jury probe of Newsweek and Olivet, said a source.
From its roots as a small Christian college in San Francisco, Olivet has tried to branch out to the East Coast, buying an abandoned state mental hospital in Wingdale, NY, and establishing the Olivet Center five years ago.
But other than a new sign out front and a guard house, the 80 buildings on the 800-acre hospital site have continued to deteriorate into crumbling ruins since the Harlem Psychiatric Center shut down in 1994.
Uzac and his wife, Marion Kim, who is active in Olivet and an adviser to Pastor Jang, were hit last Dec. 12 with a federal tax lien totaling $1.2 million. Davis was also hit with an $800,000 tax lien last year, according to Newsweek.
The tax liabilities are not related to the main probe into a possible money-laundering fraud, a source with knowledge of the DA investigation said.
Newsweek’s story speculated that the raid was somehow tied to an investigation into a loan to buy the servers. Newsweek declined to comment on Friday beyond its initial statement that acknowledged the raid on Thursday and that the company is cooperating with the DA’s probe.
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