Billionaire tax cheat Robert Smith wins naming rights to new cancer unit at Mount Sinai Hospital
Big institutions show no signs of billionaire snob and admitted tax evasion Robert Smith, even following a recent report that he played a bigger role in the fraud scheme than previously revealed.
In the latest example of the philanthropist’s rebound from scandal, Mount Sinai Hospital in New York plastered his name on a newly launched mobile cancer-screening unit made possible by his largesse.
Smith gave the hospital $3.8 million in February 2021, four months after federal prosecutors announced a non-prosecution agreement that saw the private equity honcho escape indictment with a $139 million settlement.
At the time of the gift, Mount Sinai noted the initiative would specifically aim to “promote prostate health in the black community” by offering screening services in “high concentration black neighborhoods”. Smith is America’s richest black businessman.
Reached by The Daily Beast this week, a Mount Sinai spokesperson backed the gift and the decision to grant Smith naming rights, calling him “an incredible leader and philanthropist.”
“Black men are dying needlessly from [prostate cancer], and early detection will make a big difference in saving lives. Mr. Smith’s investment and leadership helps us raise awareness to reduce the stigma around testing,” she said.
A spokesperson for Smith, meanwhile, called him a ‘role model’ and said that ‘having his name associated with the Mobile Screening Unit – as well as role models like Steve Harvey, Chris Tucker , Cedric the Entertainer and Charlamagne Tha God involved in the launch – helps raise awareness of the disease, reduces stigma around testing and ultimately saves black lives. (Only Smith’s name appears on the vehicle.)
Mount Sinai estimates that 13% of “black men aged 45-79” will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, while “more than 1%” will die from it.
The scouting unit’s mission is undoubtedly worth it, but Smith’s track record isn’t quite as clear cut.
According to a 2020 press release announcing its settlement OKthe billionaire admitted he participated in an ‘illegal scheme’ to hide more than $200 million in income using an offshore trust and offshore bank accounts between 2000 and 2015. He allegedly used some of that money untaxed to buy a house in California, two “ski properties and a commercial property in France”.
While prosecutors have publicly praised Smith’s cooperation, he remains a central figure in a continuous link Investigation: The Biggest Tax Evasion Prosecution in American History. This case centers on his former partner Robert Brockman, who faces one 39 time criminal indictment.
Smith has not been charged in this case, although the the wall street journal reported last month that he “has played a larger role than previously known in [Brockman’s] $2 billion in alleged tax evasion. (A lawyer for Smith told the Newspaper his client was unaware that Brockman may have structured a key transaction to dodge taxes.)
Smith has restored his reputation in recent years through high-profile philanthropy. In 2019, long after feds began investigating him for tax evasion, he shot to fame promised to repay all student loans for the class of 2019 at Morehouse College, whose commencement address he delivered.
Even after his installation, Smith remained a staple of high society. He chairs the board of directors of Carnegie Hall and is a member of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Council and the Cornell Tech Council.
Now, thanks to the deployment of the Mount Sinai Scouting Unit, his reputation will be cleaned up again.
Samuel Brunson, a professor at Loyola University Chicago School of Law who studies nonprofits, said organizations are free to award naming rights to donors as they see fit. Still, he noted, “a charity should probably be careful not to be the source of reputation laundering.
“If they accepted money after ‘wrongdoing was exposed,’ he added – as was the case with Sinai – ‘it doesn’t seem particularly good to them.’