For the third day in a row, CBS' newscast tried its new format with an extended Exclusive feature in its second segment. Monday Byron Pitts brought us toxic chemicals; Tuesday Bill Whitaker watched Mexico's grisly narcoviolence; now Armen Keteyian has a quirkier, but no shorter, expose from the small Wisconsin town of Shawano--it still logged in at six minutes. Keteyian was tipped off to the tale of SIST by Michael Lauber of WSAW-TV, the local CBS affiliate. SIST is a group that styles itself as an "educational non-profit" but has been characterized, despite its denials, as "a religious cult." SIST is run by the former Rama Behera, who now goes by Avraham Cohen. Its hallmark is to drape its buildings with red and blue tarpaulins and it owns as much as $13m in property around Shawano.
Enter Bob Cameron, a motor sports dealer from Canada, who had a $100,000 dispute with SIST over the sale of "high-end go-karts." Cameron claimed he received $175,000 in wire transfers from SIST along with a fax message entitled Redrum--"murder spelled backwards"--with the names of 60 municipal officials, headed by Mayor Lorna Marquandt. Keteyian told us this was "an alleged hitlist" and Cameron, "a so-called hitman, is now telling his story for the first time." Why would SIST believe that Cameron could help them in their dispute with local Wisconsin politicians? "I have an Italian wife and of course which meant that there were Italian ties and mafia ties."
"Sheer unadulterated fantasy," was how SIST's lawyer, Alan Eisenberg, described Keteyian's story. Needless to say, everybody is still alive.
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