Federal judge sentences John Waters to nine years in prison
Published: Friday August 22, 2014
The federal courthouse in Minneapolis. . USCourts.gov
MINNEAPOLIS – A former Cafesjian Family Foundation (CFF) executive
will serve nine years in prison for embezzling $4.2 million from
philanthropist Gerard L. Cafesjian. Federal judge Ann Montgomery
issued the sentence on August 21 after prosecutors requested ten years
and defense attorneys asked for three. A Minneapolis jury found
Waters guilty on 25 charges of mail and wire fraud and tax evasion
CFF chair Kathleen Cafesjian Baradaran said in her court statement
that with his actions Waters damaged “the people who [the CFF] was
intended to benefit: the people of the Republic of Armenia.” The
statement went on to say that beyond the financial costs, the
embezzlement and lawsuits represented a “devastating betrayal and
public humiliation” of both Cleo and Gerard Cafesjian. Citing the lack
of any remorse on the part of Waters, Baradaran called for a maximum
Waters began to work for Cafesjian, when he was an executive
vice-president at West Publishing in St. Paul, Minn., in the
mid-1990s. After the company was sold and Cafesjian retired, Waters
began to work for Gerard Cafesjian and the CFF. Financial
irregularities were first discovered by CFF staff after Waters quit
the organization in 2009. A subsequent investigation identified
multiple unauthorized transfers of moneys to private accounts that
A businessman and philanthropist, Cafesjian contributed many millions
of dollars for art and development projects in Armenia and the United
States. His signature project, the Cafesjian Center for the Arts, is
one of the major attractions in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan.
Gerard Cafesjian passed away last September at the age of 88. His wife
of 66 years, Cleo Cafesjian, passed away six months earlier, aged 87.
The full statement by Kathleen Cafesjian Baradaran, chair of the
Cafesjian Family Foundation, delivered on August 21, 2014 follows:
“Good afternoon, Your Honor. My name is Kathleen Cafesjian Baradaran.
I’m the daughter of Cleo and Gerry Cafesjian and the executor of both
of their estates. Since my father’s passing, I’m also the head of the
Cafesjian Family Foundation and the Cafesjian business entities.
I wanted to begin this afternoon by telling you a little bit about my
parents. Who they were, as people.
My father was a vital man, passionate about art and about life. A man
from humble beginnings, born of immigrant parents and raised in
Brooklyn, New York, during the Depression. He never forgot where he
came from and when he made his fortune, it was very important to him
to use it to improve the lives of others in a really significant way.
We didn’t have much money when I was growing up in Queens, but I never
noticed. Some of my earlier memories are of Dad taking me to Central
Park, buying me a red balloon and letting me run free and climb on all
the rocks. Afterward, we’d go to F.A.O. Schwarz, where I could play
with any toy I liked, no matter how expensive. It never mattered that
I couldn’t take it home.
It may surprise you to know that my Dad was funny. In fact, he wanted
to be a comedy writer at one point. It was standard for us to “do”
Marx Brothers scenes at home. I’d memorized most of its dialogue by
age 9. My father’s wicked sense of humor was one of his memorable
My mother’s sense of humor ran more to appreciation rather than to
joking. She was the most caring person that I have ever known. She was
a registered nurse and did volunteer work her whole life. She started
the first “Meals On Wheels” program in Roseville. She was a wonderful
wife, mother and grandmother. We miss her terribly.
Now that I’ve told you a little bit about who my parents were, let me
tell you the reason that I’m here today.
I am here to speak for the victims of John Waters, Jr. – the Cafesjian
Family Foundation – not only its employees, but the people who it was
intended to benefit. The people of the Republic of Armenia. But, most
importantly, I am here to represent the people who were most hurt by
John Waters. My parents, Gerard L. Cafesjian and Cleo Cafesjian.
This harm was not limited to the loss of money, even though millions
of dollars were stolen. The loss of reputation to the Cafesjian Family
Foundation, the missed opportunities and blighted hopes, the deep
shock and pain of colleagues and co-workers have been difficult to
But, by far the worst of all, was the devastating betrayal and public
humiliation of both my parents.
John Waters constantly brags about how much my father trusted him.
This is absolutely true. And John rewarded that trust with the most
callous betrayal possible. This was more than mere greed. Everything
that John Waters did was calculated to inflict maximum damage – to
reputation, to financial security, and – most importantly – to the
psychological well-being of my parents.
The timing, alone, of Mr. Waters’ departure was problematic – just
weeks before the opening of the Cafesjian Center for the Arts in
Yerevan, Armenia. This museum is the crown jewel of all the efforts of
the Cafesjian Family Foundation over the past decade.
Perhaps John believed that his theft would remain undetected. He
certainly spared no effort to intimidate the staff and to institute a
culture of paranoia and secrecy, while he was still employed by the
But his theft was discovered, and his only response was to launch an
even more devastating attack. He responded by filing a civil suit
based upon nothing but a tissue of lies and he used that lawsuit to
threaten and harass both my parents. He used his intimate knowledge of
my family to publically embarrass them in an effort to force their
complicity in his attempt to get away with stealing millions of
Under the guise of deposing my mother in her capacity as a Board
Member of the Cafesjian Family Foundation, he included over 200
questions that were personal in nature, not relevant to the lawsuit
and calculated to cause emotional pain and distress to my mother.
I was visiting my mother in Florida on the day she was deposed. We
both knew that she did not have long to live. She was so very weak, it
was hard for her to stay awake for more than 15 minutes at a time. We
spent those precious minutes looking at photos of her great
grandchildren, whom she adored, or talking about our favorite memories
and laughing at silly things. Sometimes I would hold her hand and she
drifted into sleep.
But the peace and comfort of that visit were shattered by the
deposition. The room was invaded by court reporters, videographers,
lawyers and my father, who was beside himself with grief and anger.
She was forced to sit up, stay awake and answer questions for over an
hour. I cannot convey how physically and emotionally difficult it was
for her at this point in her life. I cannot convey how utterly
destructive it was for my father to be made an accomplice in her
suffering. I can, however, tell you – without equivocation – that it
was John Waters’ intent to inflict this harm and that he did so
without compunction. My mother died less than 2 weeks after this
terrible experience. To John she was nothing but collateral damage.
My mother’s death destroyed my father. The knowledge that her final
year was marred by unnecessary revelations about his peccadillos left
him so guilt-ridden that, in the end, it affected his health. He died
six months after my mother. He died feeling as if he had failed. He
died feeling hurt, humiliated and betrayed. He died as John Waters
intended him to die: suffering and asking himself how he could have
been deceived by so trusted an ally.
I have been left to pick up the pieces. I can tell you from my own
personal experience that Mr. Waters’ claims of loyal service to the
aims of the Cafesjian Family Foundation are no more accurate or
truthful that his other statements. Whatever success the Foundation
has had been in spite of Mr. Waters, not because of him.
And I keep waiting for the one thing that every victim wants to hear
from the person who has harmed them: Remorse. I have heard not one
word of apology, not one iota of regret on the part of Mr. Waters.
Quite the contrary. He continues to spin the same lies and to make the
same outrageous claims, again and again. He is utterly shameless,
remorseless and pitiless.
It is for all of these reasons that I believe that the maximum
sentence should be imposed. I know of no other way to convey the
seriousness of the offense and to redress the devastating harm that
has been done by John Waters, Junior.”
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress