Feds raid NYC's Friars Club in possible embezzlement probe

Tom Hays, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. Postal Service investigators raided the legendary Friars Club after club members tipped off federal prosecutors to a possible embezzlement scheme at the place best known for celebrity roasts.

Postal Inspection Service spokeswoman Donna Harris confirmed Wednesday that agents served a search warrant earlier this week at the private wood-paneled club in midtown Manhattan. She declined to give any details.

Some club members met during the fall over suspicions a higher-up was embezzling funds, said billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis, a former mayoral candidate and a Friar. Concerns were strong enough that members decided they should report the alleged theft to the U.S. Attorney's office, he said.

"It's very sad," Catsimatidis said. "There was a lot of money disappearing."

He said a suspect had been identified, but he refused to give a name.

There was no immediate response to a request for comment from the Friars Club. Federal prosecutors declined to comment.

Over decades, the club has roasted the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Chevy Chase and Donald Trump with often raunchy humor. Last year, it hosted a 95th birthday party for comic icon Jerry Lewis attended by Jim Carrey and Robert De Niro.

The raid adds to a recent spate of bad publicity for the Friars. Last year, a club receptionist filed a lawsuit claiming she was sexually harassed by its president before being fired, while reports also surfaced questioning the finances of club's philanthropic efforts.

Catsimatidis, who has served on the board of a Friars charitable foundation, called it "100 percent clean."