Guardian Angel leader admits faking exploits

November 25, 1992|By New York Times News Service

NEW YORK -- Curtis Sliwa, the Guardian Angels' founder and leader, has admitted that six of his group's early crime-fighting exploits were actually faked, and former and present associates contend that even more of the group's activities were publicity stunts.

Rather than riding the subways to protect the public, the associates said, Mr. Sliwa and his wife, Lisa, run a group that has become little more than a security force for a block of midtown restaurants, its membership and activities greatly exaggerated, its patrols -- in their trademark red berets and T-shirts -- converging only on highly publicized situations.

Mr. Sliwa said in an article in The New York Post yesterday that he manufactured six stunts in the late 1970s, including a report of the rescue of a mugging victim substantiated by a group member displaying bruises he had actually sustained falling down on the subway after dropping off his girlfriend.

In another, a group member picked off a scab so it looked like he had been injured in a fight.

Mr. Sliwa said he was coming forward because he felt "unworthy" of the outpouring of support after he was shot in an as-yet-unsolved attack earlier this year. He maintained that the attack was genuine.

Mr. Sliwa says the hoaxes ended in 1980. But a number of former and current members of the patrol group, said Mr. Sliwa had yet to admit all.

Tony Mao, a co-founder of the group, said he drenched himself in gasoline some dozen years ago and claimed it had happened when he pounced on two men who were planning to attack a token-booth clerk. The incident, he said, was planned by Mr. Sliwa, who enlisted two other Angels to pose as the bad guys.

William Diaz, another former close associate of Mr. Sliwa's, said he was told to delay handing over a member wanted for questioning in the sexual assault of a child earlier this year. He said that Mr. Sliwa wanted time to find a replacement for the wanted member.

Ultimately, Mr. Diaz said that outrage led him to bring the suspect to the police and that the suspect pleaded guilty.

Mr. Sliwa disputed aspects of his associates' accounts, saying they were disgruntled former members.

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