The National Rifle Association (NRA) chief who claimed he was given free use of a yacht because his ‘life was in imminent danger’ allegedly used the boat for personal reasons, including his niece’s wedding, during his six summer voyages in the Caribbean.
CEO Wayne LaPierre reportedly spent a week in July 2013 cruising around the Bahamas with his niece, Colleen Sterner and her now-husband, Terry, in a yacht owned by NRA contractor David McKenzie, who was also a close confidant of LaPierre’s.
LaPierre, who was questioned about his use of the yacht in 2020 after being sued by New York Attorney General Letitia James, claimed his travels – which took place during the summers of 2013 to 2018 – were ‘security retreats’ after his life was threatened.
However, the CEO neglected to disclose how they used to boat to attend Sterner’s Atlantis wedding, the New Yorker reported.
Instead, while under oath, LaPierre testified he was ‘under presidential threat without presidential security’ and McKenzie offered the boat as ‘refuge.’
The misleading testimony could bolster James’ case against the organization, which she is seeking to have dissolved and its $200million assets redistributed.
James says the NRA’s top leaders had illegally diverted millions of dollars away from the charitable mission of the organization ‘for personal use by senior leadership.’
LaPierre and the organization have denied all wrongdoing.
NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre (pictured in 2013) said he was given free use of a yacht because his ‘life was in imminent danger’. Now officials claim he used the boat for personal reasons, including his niece’s wedding, during his six summer voyages in the Caribbean
Sterner – who LaPierre and his wife, Susan, consider to be like a daughter – was wed in a ‘small’ and ‘private’ ceremony in the Bahamas on July 16, 2013. The LaPierres were among those in attendance.
The LaPierres and the Sterners are also accused of cruising around the Caribbean on McKenzie’s 108-foot yacht for an undisclosed amount of time. While it is unknown how long their free voyage lasted, it was worth thousands of dollars.
According to a charity brochure obtained by the magazine, a four-night cruise on the ship – which has four staterooms, a waterslide and hydraulic swim platform – is valued at more than $75,000.
However, depute being required by both the NRA and New York state law, LaPierre failed to list 2013 voyage, as well as his other summer cruises, on the organization’s internal disclosure forms for nearly a decade, AG James alleged.
He only revealed the travels in spring 2021 ahead of his scheduled testimony.
The CEO explained he did not consider the move to be ‘a conflict back then’ as he viewed the yacht as a ‘security issue with my family, with myself.’
Despite LaPierre’s alleged nondisclosure, attorney William A. Brewer III, who is representing the NRA in its legal battle with James, said in October: ‘The NRA understands that Mr. LaPierre answered truthfully about his travel to and use of the yacht.Any suggestion to the contrary is reckless and misleading.’
Brewer also argued that ‘in the N.R.A.’s view,’ LaPierre is ‘honoring all of his professional obligations to the association — operating with transparency and a commitment to good governance.’
James has also accused LaPiere of lying making misleading statements under oath about the yacht and Sterner.
CEO Wayne LaPierre spent a week in July 2013 cruising around the Bahamas with his niece, Colleen Sterner and her now-husband, Terry, in a yacht owned by NRA contractor David McKenzie, who was also a close confidant of LaPierre’s (Pictured: McKenzie’s yacht)
However, the CEO neglected to disclose how they used to boat to attend Sterner’s Atlantis wedding. Instead, while under oath, LaPierre testified he was ‘under presidential threat without presidential security’ and McKenzie offered the boat as ‘refuge’ (Pictured: Laura and David McKenzie in 2018)
The CEO, who hired his niece in 2015 to help with the NRA’s Women’s Leadership Forum (WLF), testified Sterner was an ‘integral employee’ in the organization.
Tyler Schropp, who oversees NRA fundraising efforts argued Sterner is an ‘extraordinary and valuable employee’ who manages ‘national events that make a positive impact on the NRA, its members, and its mission.’
He claimed Sterner played a ‘leading role’ in producing the WLF’s 2015 summit. However, her former colleagues alleged she actually did very little work.
‘I’d never met Colleen before the event started, but [Susan LaPiere] had mentioned she’d be part of the staff. She didn’t work at headquarters, and she wasn’t on the regular planning calls or meetings that we had. Her status was never clear to me,’ a summit organizer – speaking anonymously – told the New Yorker.
Internal NRA records indicate Sterner provided ‘registration support as needed’ and served as the point of contact for a trap and skeet shooting activity.
She is said to have attended expensive luncheons and retreats at luxury resorts, as well as enjoy costly perks such as private jets.
LaPierre claimed his niece’s employment and the expenses she accrued carried legitimate business purpose, contradicting statements from other NRA employees who said Sterner completed menial tasks and was often absent from the workplace.
James, questioning the perks afforded to Sterner, referenced an August 2016 private flight in her complaint.
The attorney general alleged LaPiere authorized the NRA to pay for an $11,000 private flight from Dallas to Nebraska, where Sterner was residing, for his niece and her husband.
When questioned about it during his testimony, LaPiere said: ‘Our annual meeting was coming up down there. She was working on the Women’s Leadership Forum with people in Dallas and . . . it’s the advantage of the NRA to have her . . . do that work.’
He added that commercial flights to the family’s ‘remote corner of the state’ were limited.
LaPierre, who was questioned about his use of the yacht in 2020 after being sued by New York Attorney General Letitia James (pictured in Dec. 2021), claimed his travels – which took place during the summers of 2013 to 2018 – were ‘security retreats’ after his life was threatened
LaPierre (pictured in Feb. 2020) and the organization have denied all wrongdoing
In January 2017, Sterner and a small WLF contingent – which included Susan LaPierre – attended the Safari Club International convention in Las Vegas.
LaPierre ‘authorized a private jet to pick up’ his niece’s husband in Nebraska and fly him to Nevada.
He justified the expense by saying Sterner was busy ‘working the entire time’ she attended the convention and that her husband was needed to ‘help babysit’ their daughter ‘because there was nobody else to do it.’
Meanwhile, other staffers allege there was ‘absolutely no indication’ Sterner actually worked the convention.
‘Colleen was not involved in the planning of, or participation in, any event or donor visits,’ one staffer said. ‘If she and her husband were there, neither of them had a hand in helping coordinate donor activities, events, or soliciting items for the annual auction.’
‘There were corporate-relations individuals who needed to be at events during show season and had children at home. They were never offered any enhanced accommodation, let alone traveling by private jet with their spouse and child,’ the staffer added.
An NRA spokesperson, again defending the expense, responded with: ‘It is common practice at the NRA—and, indeed, other organizations—that not every employee attends events and social functions as registrants or special guests.
‘Some employees work behind the scenes while others work the show floor. It is clear that whoever is pushing this narrative doesn’t appreciate the ‘invisible hands’ that often make these events successful.’
Meanwhile, LaPierre has defended the trips he, his wife and niece have taken on the NRA’s dime, arguing they were vital to the organization.
‘Any time I get the two of them together anywhere, there is a benefit for the NRA,’ LaPierre testified.
‘I mean, did they enjoy being there, yeah. I mean, on the other hand, did [the] NRA get a benefit out of them being together, yes, absolutely.’
However, NRA employees who worked with the family argued ‘no staffers knew there was any WLF planning in the Bahamas.’
Another alleged any planning done in the Caribbean ‘was not shared with the WLF team’.
Susan LaPierre has recently stepped down as co-chair of the WLF, while Sterner continues to work for the NRA.
In wake of this investigation, Sterner said: ‘I have no idea why there is a fixation on my wedding, but it feels personally harassing.’
The NRA Board of Directors re-elected LaPierre to his position as the group’s chief executive officer in October – despite the scandal over the group’s financing.
The vote came as the NRA continued to face the lawsuit James filed the year prior, accusing the group’s leadership of using the organization as their ‘personal piggy bank’ for years.
Sterner – who LaPierre and his wife, Susan, consider to be like a daughter – was wed in a ‘small’ and ‘private’ ceremony in the Bahamas on July 16, 2013. The LaPierres were among those in attendance (Pictured: Atlantis Island Resort hotel)
In wake of this investigation, Sterner said: ‘I have no idea why there is a fixation on my wedding, but it feels personally harassing’ (Pictured: Atlantis Paradise Resort in Nassau, Bahamas – where Sterner’s wedding was held)
The suit came after the NRA filed for bankruptcy in January as part of a restructuring plan in a failed bid to leave New York in favor of Texas.
The organization claimed the move would help it escape what it called a corrupt political and regulatory environment in New York. The NRA has been incorporated in New York since 1871, although its headquarters are in Fairfax, Virginia.
In May, a federal judge denied the group’s bankruptcy petition, arguing that it had been filed in bad faith, and slammed LaPierre’s conduct as ‘nothing less than shocking’.
The decision by US Bankruptcy Judge Harlin Hale, outlined in a 33-page ruling, marked a major blow to the NRA after the month-long bankruptcy trial, and meant the group could not use bankruptcy to reorganize in the gun-friendly Lone Star state and remain incorporated in New York.
It also cleared the way for James’ lawsuit to continue through the courts.
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