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Illinois teacher sues 'Three Cups of Tea' author

/ Source: The Associated Press

Efforts to start a class-action lawsuit against "Three Cups of Tea" author Greg Mortenson in Montana now include Illinois.

Former teacher Deborah Netter of Lake County filed suit this month in Illinois federal court against Mortenson, his coauthor and publisher seeking damages and class action status.

The lawsuits in Illinois and Montana cite media reports from "60 Minutes" and author Jon Krakauer alleging Mortenson lied in the book about how he became involved in building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The book claims he became lost in 1993 while mountain climbing in rural Pakistan and stumbling upon the village of Korphe, where the residents helped him recuperate and he promised to build a school. Released in 2006, it sold more than 3 million copies.

According to the lawsuit, Netter wants compensation "for herself and all other individuals or entities, who purchased 'Three Cups of Tea' and did not get what they paid for, but instead, were wrongly induced by each of the defendants to buy a phony and fictional story as opposed to the truth."

Mortenson has previously denied any wrongdoing, though he has admitted some of the events in his book were compressed in time. Publisher Penguin Books said it had no comment on the lawsuit.

Netter claims they violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, were unjustly enriched and committed breach of contract. She wants an accounting of all the book has earned, for proceeds to be placed in a trust for the plaintiffs and a halt to marketing and promotion efforts describing "Three Cups of Tea" as nonfiction.

Along with class-action status, the lawsuit filed in Illinois on June 8 also seeks damages and attorney's fees.

Mortenson, of Bozeman, Mont., had surgery earlier this month after doctors discovered an aneurysm and a hole in his heart. Mortenson is executive director of the Central Asia Institute, which said in a Saturday news release that he was under doctor's orders to rest after the open-heart procedure.

The institute did not respond to an email sent Monday seeking comment on the Illinois lawsuit.

Last month, two Montana lawmakers filed a claim in Missoula federal court saying they were duped into buying Mortenson's best-selling book and donating to his charity based on lies they thought were true.