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Did Michael Jackson pay “hush-money” to a family in Brazil in 2003?

No. This is yet another “hush-money” story that has no factual evidence. The story originates from Jackson’s former associate Marc Schaffel. Schaffel formerly worked as an advisor for the star but in 2004 after he stopped working for Jackson he sued him claiming Jackson owed him $1.6 million, then later $3.8 million, for various endeavors he worked on for the pop star. Jackson counter-sued him claiming that Schaffel owed him money too. At the end Schaffel was awarded some of his demands and Jackson too was awarded some of his.

The relevant thing for our purpose is that during the civil trial of that case in an attempt to get the case settled, Schaffel, out of the blue, made a claim of $300,000 that he never claimed before. Then he made his rounds in the media – and especially appeared to feed articles written by Roger Friedman for Fox News – in which he suggested or downright claimed that this was some sort of secret “hush money” pay-off in November 2003 on the behalf of Jackson for a family (supposedly a certain David and Ruby Martinez) in Brazil who “felt their child was abused by the pop star” [1].

In another article written by Friedman a couple of days later the story got more confusing. Now Friedman claimed that Jackson wanted to adopt 3-4-year-old children from Brazil, a boy and a girl, and “the $300,000 secret payment that I told you about last week was going to be used for this adoption. When that didn’t work out, the money (already in Brazil) was subsequently used to buy the continued silence of a family Jackson had quietly paid off years earlier when they claimed he’d had inappropriate relations with their son”[2].

In each case the articles end with what seem like thinly vieled attempts at blackmailing the star into a settlement or else Schaffel would make more allegations which could potentially harm Jackson’s reputation:

“The Schaffel case continues Thursday in Santa Monica, although I cannot understand why Jackson doesn’t borrow the money and settle out of court. More testimony in this direction, no matter how oblique, cannot be good for him.” [1]

“There’s more to this story, and it only gets worse. The reason all this is coming out, of course, is because the Schaffel v. Jackson trial continues without a settlement. The reason for this can be only one of two things: Jackson is either getting the worst advice ever from lawyers, who are also billing him at top dollar, or he simply doesn’t have the cash on hand to settle the case.
My guess is it’s both, and before this trial is over, Michael Jackson’s reputation will be even more thoroughly damaged than it was last year.” [2]

Despite of these threats Jackson refused to settle the case.

We learn from an Associated Press report that forensic accountant, Jan Goren testified that he had no reason to believe this allaged payment ever took place.

“Jan Goren, who showed jurors how he traced millions of dollars through the various bank accounts of F. Marc Schaffel, also said he found no substantiation for a $300,000 payment Schaffel claimed he provided to a mysterious “Mr. X” in South America on Jackson’s behalf.” [3]

[…]

On the purported delivering of $300,000 to “Mr. X” in South America, Goren testified that Schaffel never claimed the amount until this year and “there is no check, no moneys leaving a bank … no bank statements, no ledgers.”

“I have nothing that corroborates it from a documentary point of view,” he said.

He noted that the entry was coded “EFT,” which refers to an electronic fund transfer to another account. But he said the amount was never transferred to or from any account.

“My conclusion on this is it is not a valid claim,” Goren said.” [3]

During Goren’s cross examination Schaffel’s lawyer, Howard King tried to prove this claim by showing a receipt of a withdrawal of $258,000 from a Hungarian bank. However, the date of the withdrawal was three years before Schaffel claimed this supposed pay-off took place – at the time Schaffel did not even work for Jackson yet. The sum did not match, the place did not match and the date was off by three years.

“On the issue of the $300,000, King asked if Goren had seen a receipt from a Hungarian bank.

“No, you can show me,” said Goren.

But it wasn’t until redirect examination by Mundell that the receipt was displayed in court. It showed a withdrawal of $258,000 from a Hungarian bank three years before Schaffel claims he was dispatched to South America on a mission for Jackson.

“Of course this does not influence my opinion,” Goren said. “This transaction took place three years before. So what? How does it end up in South America? I don’t see the connection at all.” [3]

After the civil case between them ended Schaffel never made this claim again. Schaffel was one of the main sources for Randall Sullivan’s 2012 book entitled Untouchable – The Strange Life and Tragic Death of Michael Jackson and in that book he talks about this civil trial, but he totally “forgets” to mention this particular action by him during that trial. In the book Schaffel never claims to have any knowledge about Jackson being a child molester or paying off anyone. Nor did Schaffel ever mention this allegation before this civil case. He never went to authortities during the 2003-05 investigation and criminal trial against Jackson to report any knowledge about alleged pay-offs.

He only made this claim during the civil trial in 2006 while he was trying to make Jackson settle the case by threatening him with bad publicity and, as we have seen, evidence presented at that trial did not support this claim.

Sources:

[1] Roger Friedman – Jacko’s Big Secret: $300,000 Payoff to Another Family? (FoxNews.com, July 6, 2006)
http://www.foxnews.com/story/2006/07/06/jacko-big-secret-300000-payoff-to-another-family/

[2] Roger Friedman – Michael Jackson Tried to Adopt Brazilian Babies (FoxNews.com, July 10, 2006)
http://www.foxnews.com/story/2006/07/10/michael-jackson-tried-to-adopt-brazilian-babies/

[3] Linda Deutsch – Accountant Disputes Claims Against Jackson (Associated Press, 13th July 2006)
Accountant Disputes Claims Against Jackson

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