Founder of Guardian Angels Confesses to Hoaxes
Curtis Sliwa said Tuesday that he faked his 1980 kidnaping and five other exploits to help the Guardian Angels survive its early years as a volunteer crime-fighting group.
“I was wrong, but we were in a sprint for survival,” Sliwa said. “We were just little people trying to get recognition for doing good work. In a sense it was like being Don Quixote.”
But he admitted that the constant media attention played a part in the deception.
“It became like an intoxicant, a narcotic,” he said.
Sliwa said the worst, and last, of his fabrications was his 1980 claim that three transit police officers picked him up in a car, drove him around and threatened him to get the Guardian Angels to end subway patrols. That never happened.
Yet he said he received those kinds of threats nightly from Transit Authority officers and “used creative license to manufacture the situation because I needed to get the transit police off the Guardian Angels’ backs.”
The first hoax--returning a wallet with $300 to an elderly mugging victim--was dreamed up with help from his priest, who was trying to help the group get started, Sliwa said.
Other false reports, made between 1978 and 1980, included tales that the Guardian Angels thwarted subway muggings, that Sliwa had been beaten up fighting a rapist and that someone painted “KKK” and “White Power” outside the group’s headquarters.
He said the words were painted by “our own Guardian Angel members.”
He said he stopped making things up after the fake 1980 kidnaping when then-Bronx Dist. Atty. Mario Merola gave him a stern warning.
Sliwa said he revealed his lies because of his recent brush with death. He reported being shot five times by several unidentified gunmen as he sat in a taxicab on June 19.
Sliwa, 38, founded the nonprofit group in 1978 after the city’s budget crisis decimated Transit Authority ranks and left the subway system virtually unpatrolled after 8 p.m.
Critics accused the group of practicing vigilantism, and police regarded them as amateurs out to grab headlines--and they did.
The publicity helped the organization grow into a worldwide volunteer group with chapters in 47 cities and nearly 5,000 members.