Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Santa Monica College's Failed Forgery Attempt

Recently, we did a two-part story on Jim Keeshen's Animatics contracts, which he obtained through Santa Monica College. Part One examined Keeshen's various and convoluted corporate identities in addition to the original Animatics contracts he received from SMC. Part Two went a step further, covering the remaining two Animatics contracts under the Title VI-A federal grant in addition to payments made and authorized by Academy of Entertainment and Technology Dean Katharine Muller. We also covered Jerry Hamby's role and the fact that both he and Keeshen were faculty members at AET despite the fact that the Animatics' contracts alleged otherwise. We also provided some nice screenshots of the Studio Animatics CD-ROM and Adobe PDF files of the two contracts.

Let's take a closer look at the two contracts authorized by the District in the year 2001. The July 2001 contract with Animatics can be viewed
HERE. The amended September 2001 Animatics contract can be viewed HERE. Let's look at a screenshot from the July 2001 contract's first page:

Top of July 2001 Animatics Contract with SMC

Notice that SMC has redacted a lot of vital information here. How can the phone number and fax number of a legitimate company be confidential and not public information? Well, as we've shown, Animatics was not a legitimate company, but a
fictitious one. Notice that SMC Professor Jim Keeshen's home address is used for this company. Let's compare it with the amended September 2001 Animatics first page:

Top of September 2001 Animatics Contract with SMC

Now, a few things immediately grab the eye. The July 2001 contract is an "Agreement for Professional Services" with Santa Monica Community College District. The September 2001 contract has become an "Agreement for Personal Services." If this is merely an "amended" contract, how can it become personal, especially with a corporate identity that uses a 95 prefix on its federal tax identification number? This isn't a personal social security number, but a federal identification number for a company based in California. Strike one.

There's no phone number or fax number at all. Why are they absent in the amended contract? A minor point that balances out with the fact that SMC didn't redact anything this time. Notice we once again have Keeshen's home phone number in this amended contract, yet the consultant still agrees that he is NOT an employee of the District. Since Jim Keeshen was an employee of SMC by virtue of his employment at the Academy of Entertainment and Technology as a full time professor, he should not have entered into this contract. Strike two.

In fact, SMC has strict policies regarding consultant contracts. Pursuant to SMC's Merit Rules, Chapter III, subsection D governing
Consultant Contracts, it expressly states: "1. Individuals legitimately hired to provide service under contract shall not be considered employees of the District. 2. Employees of the District may not be hired as consulting contractors." [emphasis added].

So, if Keeshen was granted some kind of exception to enter into a consultant contract with the District in which he was employed, then why didn't he use his own social security number? Or he could have used James Keeshen Productions, Inc., his only registered company with the State of California. But that would still have his name attached to the SMC Board of Trustees minutes and agendas. As we've discussed before, we allege that he didn't want anyone to know about his lucrative outside consultant contracts with SMC.

Notice that the July 2001 contract is with "Animatics." In the amended September 2001 version, AET Professor Jim Keeshen has written the name "Studio" with a little arrow pointing to "Animatics," thereby amending the name of the consultant to "Studio Animatics." So, if Keeshen entered into both Animatics consultant contracts with SMC, and one was the amendment of the other, only two months apart, why is this name just now amended? If this is Animatics third consultant contract with SMC since 2000, why is the name only now altered? Either way you slice your bread, Animatics and Studio Animatics are not legitimate corporate entities or real businesses in the State of California. And he's still using his home address, which is registered to the
James Keeshen Productions, Inc. corporation as the address for service of process. A big strike three.

Chapter XIV of the Merit Rules governing
Disciplinary Action and Appeals makes clear that "knowingly falsifying any information supplied to the District including but not limited to information supplied on application forms, employment records, and other records" is grounds for "immediate disciplinary action by the Board" and a cause for "suspension, demotion, or dismissal." (See 14.1.4, subsection A 11). I think these Animatics contracts would fall under this provision pertaining to the falsification of information supplied to Santa Monica Community College District.

Now, let's move from mere falsification of information to actual forgery. Let's compare two more screenshots from Keeshen's Animatics contracts. The first screenshot is from the July 2001 contract's second page signature section:

Bottom of July 2001 Animatics Contract with SMC with forged signature

Notice that the District signature appears to be that of then SMC President/Superintendent Piedad Robertson. It is dated July 23, 2001. Take a good look at the consultant signature. The name is "Jim Keeshen." The title is "President, Animatics." The date is June 16, 2001, written over to read July 16, 2001. Now let's compare it to the amended September 2001 screenshot:

Bottom of September 2001 Animatics Contract with SMC with authentic signature

President Robertson's signature seems to match for the most part. The date is left blank. There's a Board Approval Date, as in the last one, but the Account Number doesn't match. Now here's where we see the huge difference when we turn to the consultant information. It is now signed by "James Keeshen" in his capacity as "President." The date is September 30, 2001. Can you see the difference in signatures? Here's two close-up signatures side-by-side:

Jim Keeshen's forged signature Jim Keeshen's real signature
From left to right: Jim Keeshen's forged signature and James Keeshen's real signature.

Can you see the obvious difference in the two signatures? One is smaller than the other. It is also less rounded than the second one. Compare the individual letters. Of course no one signs his or her name the same way twice, but this is only two months apart and strikingly different.

What are some of the blatant mistakes the person who forged this signature made? First, although Professor Keeshen refers to himself as "Jim Keeshen," he signs his name "James Keeshen." I've seen enough documents signed by him to testify to this fact. Second, he's left-handed and has large fingers. It would be difficult for him to write so small. The third mistake is that the forger signed it "President, Animatics" when Keeshen himself had amended the contract he actually did sign to read "Studio Animatics." Let's give three strikes to the forger as well.

In case you need a bit more proof regarding which is the authentic signature, I've obtained a public record that has Jim Keeshen's notarized signature. You can view it HERE. This title deed pertained to a condominium Keeshen sold in 2004. I remember him telling me about it. Here's a screenshot I made of the notarized James F. Keeshen signature:

A notarized copy of Jim Keeshen's real signature

Can you see the similarity in signatures? Here's the close-up signatures side-by-side:

Jim Keeshen's notarized signature Jim Keeshen's real signature
From left to right: James F. Keeshen's notarized signature and James Keeshen's real signature.

Now only one question remains: Was this signature forged before or after our request for public records pertaining to the Animatics contract? Was SMC so careless and negligent that it didn't notice all these discrepancies in Jim Keeshen's Animatics contracts with the District? Alternatively, was SMC so deceptive and dishonest that it would deliberately forge his signature after the fact when the contract was to be disclosed under the California Public Records Act?

If this is the case, one wonders whether Jim Keeshen even had a contract with SMC or if Dean Katharine Muller merely handed over taxpayer money without one? Is SMC failing to disclose the other Animatics' contracts because the District never bothered to write them up? Or is SMC hiding the remaining incriminating contracts from the public's watchful eyes?

Now, SMC claims that Professor Jim Keeshen never filed the mandatory sabbatical report for his Fall 2003 sabbatical with Klasky Csupo. Who's lying here? Given the fact that SMC has previously altered and falsified information such as records pertaining to my homepage and eCollege's eCompanion and online course modules to cover the fact that I was a teaching assistant to Professor Jim Keeshen as well as deliberately lying about public records which they knew they had but did not wish to disclose, it could be someone who works for SMC. And SMC did infringe on my copyrights.

However, given the fact that Keeshen has taken credit for work done by others on various entertainment projects, has done a few allegedly unethical things within his online and eCompanion courses, operated out of several fictitious names, and entered into these consultant contracts in the first place, and has been caught in more than one lie in the past, it could very well be Keeshen who is not telling the truth.

Or, it could be a combination as both. I will leave the final judgment call to you. Since Professor Jim Keeshen does work for Santa Monica Community College District, the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree. Is it time to do a bit more pruning from that tree of knowledge?

All jesting aside, forgery is a serious felony. According to FindLaw, "The crime of forgery generally refers to the making of a fake document, the changing of an existing document, or the making of a signature without authorization. Documents that can be the object of forgery include contracts, identification cards, and legal certificates. Most states require that forgery be done with the intent to commit fraud or theft/larceny." Interestingly, Santa Monica College's website does not discuss penalties for forgery for faculty, staff, or administrators. All the web pages I found pertained to students. As we can see, the July 2001 Animatics contract would fall into this definition of forgery.

What is the penalty for forgery? I cite from U.S. Code: Title 18: Section 495 as follows:

Whoever falsely makes, alters, forges, or counterfeits any deed, power of attorney, order, certificate, receipt, contract, or other writing, for the purpose of obtaining or receiving, or of enabling any other person, either directly or indirectly, to obtain or receive from the United States or any officers or agents thereof, any sum of money; or Whoever utters or publishes as true any such false, forged, altered, or counterfeited writing, with intent to defraud the United States, knowing the same to be false, altered, forged, or counterfeited; or Whoever transmits to, or presents at any office or officer of the United States, any such writing in support of, or in relation to, any account or claim, with intent to defraud the United States, knowing the same to be false, altered, forged, or counterfeited - Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

Pretty powerful stuff. Now, wasn't the forged Animatics document considered a contract? It sure is, so it passes the first test. Additionally, wasn't this a contract between Jim Keeshen and Santa Monica Community College District for a grant with the United States Department of Education? Of course it was. It was a Title VI-A federal grant governing Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Programs. Was a sum of money paid to SMC and then forwarded to Jim Keeshen? Katharine Muller authorized payment to Animatics for $40,000 in October 2000 for the Title VI-A grant and then again for $33,000 in Fall 2001.

Did someone here at SMC have the intent of defrauding the United States? I think so. But remember that Jim Keeshen is only one small part of SMC's Title VI-A and VI-B grants. He worked with Joan Abrahamson, Stacy Ingber, Katharine Muller, Kapow, Inc. and Piedad Robertson, among others. Perhaps we should delve a little deeper and see what else we can find. I think you will be surprised.

-- Des Manttari,
Phoenix Genesis

(c) 2006: Phoenix Genesis/MBS LP

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