Monday, January 03, 2011

Charlie Engle's "Fraud-Funded" Sahara Run - Will He Get 111 Days in the Slammer?

Charlie Engle, the addict-turned-ultrarunner who joined two buddies to run 4,300 miles across the Sahara (chronicled in the film Running The Sahara), was found guilty of 12 counts of bank, mail, and wire fraud in October, 2010, supposedly using ill-gained mortgage money to finance the Sahara expedition. It's a fascinating ultrarunning backstory coming in through the public news feeds.

I can't decide on this one. Is Engle just another mortgage-crisis opportunist or the ultrarunning version of Robin Hood?

Sure, he forged a few facts on his applications to get $400,000 in bank loans that he didn't repay. Hey, who didn't? As Engle himself explained to the IRS agent that busted him, "everyone was doing it". But unlike Wall St mavens who prefer to spend their ill-gotten gains on $40,000 cell phones, marijuana (now more popular than cocaine on Wall St.), or hiring dwarfs for bachelor parties, Charlie Engle crossed the Sahara to raise awareness about the clean water crisis in Africa. Not only a wicked cool adventure, but a great message to a worthy cause. Heck, even Matt Damon signed on as the Executive Director for the movie. And that guy is brilliant and well-respected by his peers (see video).

Only the mad genius of an ultrarunner would (allegedly) blow a mountain of cash on 4,300 miles of heat training over 111 days. It's a small ray of solace from the $24,000 per capita share of the bailout cloud hanging over each of our heads to know a few nickels went to an ultrarunning adventure.

I'm sure this is a tough time for Charlie, and I should be careful in openly discussing an athlete far more accomplished than me, as well as quoting third party articles I can't verify. A little trouble with the IRS shouldn't distract us from his epic accomplishments (although ironically, it was his griping on film about finances that led the IRS to investigate him). Do Al Capone's tax evasion charges demote him from being the world's best gangster? Absolutely not. Does Wesley Snipes' trouble with the IRS make his films suck any less? Not a chance. Should Julio Cesear Chavez have to give up one of his six world boxing titles because he owes $12 million in back taxes? Well, I'm certainly not going to be the one to tell him. If anything, I will congratulate him on making #2 on the Top 100 Celebrity back tax list, then back away slowly, protecting my face at all times.

So the last question remains - is there a more creative way to sentence a guy whose idea of fun is 111 days wearing lycra in the Sahara? A prison term does little to tap into his extraordinary skills. I guess he could break the world record for running in place, drawing attention to the poor conditions of the incarcerated, and get Matt Damon to narrate a sequel (say it like the video now..."Maaht Daaymun"!). No, it's going to take something far more epic for Mr. Engle.

Perhaps 4,300 hours on the mortgage foreclosure hotline? I don't think anyone can take that kind of heat for long. There has to be something better than incarceration - can you think of something more appropriate that taps into his amazing endurance skills? I suspect Charlie, the man who first dreamed of crossing the Sahara, could probably conjure something huge.

Okay, okay, my rant is over. Feel free to tell me what a jerk I am, that I shouldn't pry, you should meet the guy, yada-yada. I do think he's amazing and would love to run with him sometime. But you have to admit - this is a public story that is fascinating. Public news feeds are fair game, peeps.


  1. Yea he's kind of right - a lot of people did lie. And the rest of them who broke the law should be prosecuted too.

  2. This post cracked me up... thanks for the chuckle. But the whole thing ruins my naive illusion of ultrarunners as noble, honest sportsmen who wouldn't dream of cheating in life or in sport. :(

  3. A bit too harsh Scott, I talk to the guy pretty much every week and know what he has been going through. He is soldiering on and would probably even laugh at your post himself considering the tower of a man that he is. Sure he messed up but he has helped millions (as you have noted) not only through his well/water projects but also many addicts like myself. I agree with your post in that he should not be in put in jail but making sarcastic chestnuts about 111 days running in place or four thousand plus hours on a hot line is just the lowest form of wit. What you fail to mention is the two sons who will be devastated by his imprisonment and his family too. I am a big fan of your blog and have posted so in the past but the tone of this one left a pretty sour taste. You have always espoused the spirit and camaraderie of the ultra running world but I see none of that here, yes it may be public domain and "fair game" but getting more hits on your blog because of the misfortune of someone else is not what I expected to read here. Respectfully. Malcolm McLoughlin-Paris.

  4. people might say "the end does not justify the means" but robin hood is a hero, isn't he? so why not charlie engle who definitely had a worthy cause? i still think that sahara run with his two other buddies to raise awareness about the clean water crisis in africa was both brave and noble.

  5. "Does Wesley Snipes' trouble with the IRS make his films suck any less? Not a chance."
    That's kind of harsh. He was great in "Major League" as Willy Mays Hayes.
    "I hit like Mays,and I run like Hayes."

  6. Obviously he made some mistakes, but the tone that you took is probably a bit insensitive within the tight knit ultra community. I don't know the man, but I think he probably deserves a little more respect than a post like this.

  7. We don't teach our children that it's ok to break the rules when others are doing it too. Consequences suck, but they are a result of his choices. Nobody to blame but himself, just as if any one of us did it, we'd have been just as wrong.

  8. Malcolm - Thanks for your comment. It's well said, and signed, which I appreciate. Your integrity is without question. I think you can probably tell a much better story about Engle's situation given how close you are to him and his personal effect on you. I have no doubt he's the "tower of a man" you speak of.

    Derrick - Duly noted. It's always hard to find that line, even within the ultra community. I've seen the ultra list turn Dean Karnazes into a daily pinata with no regrets, and I think he's accomplished amazing things for the sport and community.

    Here's another nugget to think about. Why isn't anyone telling me to lay off of Matt Damon? He's roasted in this post, but not a peep.


  9. scott: what a controversial topic. This is a multi-faceted and very layered scenario it seems. Many people seem to view this as a "gray area"..

    my humble opinion is this: Charlie seems like a very nice person, but what he did was wrong. It's ethically and morally WRONG to take out a large loan and simply not pay it back and default the loan
    . If I took out a loan for a half million dollars and didn't pay it back, would I go to jail?? no. I'd have to file for bankruptcy protection etc and suffer a decade or so of bad credit.. but if I went on an expedition and ran across the sahara desert and then for two consecutive years show a loss on my taxes and that I only earned ( I forget the exact figure but I think it was like 30,000 per year) THEN YES, I think the IRS would go after me too. That is the achilles heel-- he could of paid back the loan, but he spent the money on the expedition and he lied on his taxes and totally got busted for it.
    It's SAD anyway you look at it. I definitely feel sorry for Charlie's family and his kids. ( of course!) It maybe he got SUPER BAD financial advice, but I feel ANYONE with simple math skills could figure out what he was doing was wrong..
    it doesn't mean that Charlie is a terrible person, he is just a person who made a financial mistake (s)/ ie BROKE LAWS, got caught, and the govt is chastising him( this happens to thousands and thousands of people EVERY year in federal court) - He will pay for his blunder by serving time in a minimum security prison, and I'm sure grow from the experience and walk away from the whole ordeal stronger-- He and his family will put this all behind them in the past-- and go on to do great things.

    That being said.. it kinda disgusts me that an IRS investigator ( who is an ultrarunner) read of Charlie's run across the sahara and then mused to himself. "hmmm wonder where he got the money for that." and pulled his tax forms to check it out. :/ scary!

    as I said, it's just a bad/ negative situation anyway you look at it.

  10. Scott -

    My first reaction to your post was that of most of the commenters. Where do you get off?!?

    Then I went to post my response. I used lots of swear words, but then cut them out since that means I'm just ripping on you. I went to cut and paste the sentence where you insulted Charlie, but it wasn't there. Instead every sentence about him in this post says he is extraordinary.

    Then my head filled with the big questions. When does wrong become right? Why do we forgive our heroes?

    There's something genius about this post that I can't put my finger on. But you're still a dick.

    BTW, stop picking on Matt Damon.

    Respectfully, Arthur Ross

  11. Okay, you deleted my last post, which I expected from a wimp like you. I can tell you unequivocally that Charlie did not use one penny of loan money or any other money to pay for any aspect of the expedition. Regurgitating what the government spoon fed to reporters should be beneath you. Do you really know any of the facts in this case? You will after next Monday.

  12. Be mad all you want at Scott for his tone, but it is his blog and his point of view.

    Regardless Charlie is a thief, Google what occured and read the articles, the guy's a thief. Who you are or what you did does not absolve you of your bad deeds. The statement he made "everybody was doing it" is pretty telling of his character, IMHO.

    As far as his family and sons go, maybe he should have thought of them before he did what he did. I feel bad for them, but you can't defend the guy for his familys well being. The guy did these crimes to do and live the way he wanted. I don't care what his reason or cause was, it was wrong.

    Jenn, why is disgusting that an investigator was doing his job. For whatever reason he checked up on Charlie and found out he was a crook.


  13. Leave Matt alone!!

  14. To the Anonymous commenters that have been flaming me all morning:

    If you want me to post your comments, you need to SIGN YOUR NAME.

    As hilarious as I find it that somebody anonymously posting calls me a wimp, it's not adding anything to the dialogue. I would love to post your point of view. So please have the integrity to sign your name to it.

    And Arthur Ross, your comment is AWESOME! The tempo is perfect. Start a blog, my good man. Or at least let me buy you a beer.


  15. Anthony,

    I guess what bothers me about the investigator ( I don't fault him for doing his job ) it's more of the fact of reading an article about a fellow ultrarunner doing this amazing accomplishment, and instead of being inspired or thinking at least "wow, these guys ran for FOREVER." -- he immediately wondered about funding and sponsorship, if there was wrong doing etc. ( my mind certainly doesn't work that way-- perhaps I'm just naive and the world is still a bright and sunshiney place for me) and then took it upon himself to investigate, it wasn't like the IRS assigned him the case to delve into ( although I am sure it would just be a matter of time before the IRS figured out that something was amiss) -- he did that voluntarily. It just seems a little like "hallway monitor in high school" type behavior...
    That part bothers me on a certain level... I guess perhaps "disgusting" was the wrong/too strong a word choice.
    and I'm not excusing charlie's wrong doings in the least.

  16. It’s a real shame that you state Charlie used the money to "finance" Running The Sahara. Newspapers report Charlie received about $140K in cash. Which is not enough to finance an entire expedition of that magnitude. I have put together multiple international expeditions and that amount of money would have run out very early into the journey. Charlie most likely used the money to pay his personal bills, feed his family while he was away, and keep up his traveling lifestyle when he returned from the expedition. But even that is speculation on my part. To say he used the money to finance the project is absolutely incorrect.

    What about the sponsors that contributed to the project or the movie production company that invested large sums of money? Estimates have the movie budget around $1million! There was a huge production team out there for well over a hundred days. Do you really think he could finance all that on $140K? I know for a fact, the other two runners didn't receive compensation from Charlie or anyone else for their efforts. So, my question to you is, how can you state Charlie used the money to finance the project?

    It is very disheartening to read this sort of speculation because it tarnishes the honest efforts, values, and lifestyles of the rest of the team that sacrificed so much to complete the project. In our world of tabloid media and as you say “fair game” reporting people tend to over look the impact they make when they assert irresponsible speculation. Sure, you have the right to post whatever you want. But the impact is that people without any other knowledge of “Running The Sahara” will now look much differently upon this well intentioned and truly remarkable project thanks to your false and reckless speculation.

    I either know or have met just about everybody involved in that project from the runners, doctors, camera men, director, producers, guides etc. and for you (when you don't have a clue) to claim the entire project was financed by illegal money is disgraceful. You basically just turned your blog into tabloid type material. Just because you have a blog with a following in the community of ultra running should not make you feel compelled to tear down the blood, sweat, and tears (of the likes you will never know) of a great group of people that persevered throughout that journey.

    I’m sure you will have something witty as a response that will justify your blog post to you and your readers, but in my opinion you truly made an error in judgment with this post.


    Bob Cox

  17. No witty response, Bob. Those are all very good points.

  18. It sounds like most of the commenters know Charlie personally. This puts you at an immediate disadvantage no matter how fair and balanced you tried to make your commentary. Of course it's fair game to blog on a published article...but it may be worth contacting the person you are writing about to get a little insight first. And maybe you even did. Either way, Matt Damon gets a pass every time:-)

  19. Jen,

    Thank you for the reply, I understand your dislike, the hall monitor reference is app. The reason I asked was I’m on the other side of the fence. I’m in law enforcement and investigate sex crimes so my view was different than yours. Many times based on my own feelings I’ve “looked into people” like the IRS guy. Sadly many times I’ve been correct on my assumption and many more times it’s been incorrect. I assume that’s what happened in the IRS guy’s case.

    Great dialog, thank you for the reply.

    Bob C.

    As Scott said, valid points, but again I disagree. I don’t see the speculation you mentioned. The guy got caught and is going to trial. My legal experience in US courts is the Fed’s don’t file if the case is shaky.

    As to bringing down his team, he did that himself, Scott and others are only commenting on it. We (you) wouldn’t have to worry about him, his team, his causes or his family if HE had not been greedy.

    You stated: “Charlie most likely used the money to pay his personal bills, feed his family while he was away, and keep up his traveling lifestyle when he returned from the expedition.”

    Maybe Charlie shouldn’t have done the expedition in the first place then. But again as you have pointed out, this is assumption on all our parts.

    My question is this; you stated you have first hand experience that he could not finance the trip on 140K and that the other two guys didn’t get any money and you have talked to a lot of guys involved. Is it possible for you to contact the people you know to better understand the true story? Instead of us all fostering the “assumptions” while stating our personal point of view, maybe you can help to clear this up better for everyone’s benefit.

    As always good debate, please no one take this personal, etc etc.


  20. What bothers me most about this whole case is the IRS agent actions. Since when has running across the Sahara been "probable cause" for investigating an alleged crime? Maybe the IRS doesn't need to meet that hurdle, which also doesn't seem right. Anthony?

    Not that it makes Charlie any less guilty but lots of developers where signing "stated income" loans (no proof of income needed). When those loans went into default, the banks foreclosed. Of course lots (probably most) of those non-occupant loans where done under corporate laws, which greatly protect the individual from prosecution. Maybe this was Charlie's biggest "mistake."

    I have no real knowledge of the specifics of the case other than what I've read in the papers.

    Regardless, he was found guilty by a jury of his peers and will serve his time.


  21. Scott,
    I rarely comment on any blog posts because it has the potential to come off as self serving and disingenuous. But this blog caught my attention. Conversation is always good and I realize that most folks just simply accept what they read in the paper as the definitive truth. I am grateful that some others want to dig deeper.

    I cannot comment on the case at this point as my sentencing is coming up on Monday. However, after reading Bob C's post, it does remind me that so many people are being negatively effected by this mess. I can say one thing for certain, there were some amazing sponsors and investors involved in Running the Sahara. The budget for this project was in the millions. Not one penny of my money went into the expedition or the film. That speculation was written by a less than thorough journalist that didn't really care if it was true or not. Somehow I guess it just made the story juicier to tie it all together. My experience with blogs is that there are "professional commenters" that enjoy seeing the struggles of others. I get it, that is the world we live in. For those that are interested in the whole story, it will come out later this year. For those whose minds are made up, nothing is likely to change that.

    I will survive this ordeal and try to help my kids through it also. I will keep running and writing and maybe even making films. I have never run a step in my life for anyone but myself. I do it because I love it. I never set out to make any money from running or to gain any fame. That was never the goal. However, I am proud of the many people that have been helped because of Running the Sahara and Running America. Thousand of lives have been saved and many others have changed for the better. And that certainly is NOT because of me. It is because of Ray and Kevin and the doc and Chuck and Don and all of the producers and sponsors of the expedition and movie. Crazy, unexplainable things happen in life and I am certainly stuck in the middle of that right now. Only time will tell if something positive can come from it.

    I am certainly an imperfect man. Luckily there are many that judge me kindly. They support me because they no me personally, not because of what they read about me. I certainly respect the opinions of everyone that has commented here and I support your right to do so. If any of you actually has an interest in ever really getting to know me, I am very available. At least for a little while longer :0).

    Thanks Scott for creating such a good platform for discussion.

    See you down the trail.
    Charlie Engle

  22. Phillip Hamilton1/05/2011 11:17:00 AM

    This, Scott, may very well be your best thread ever, simply for the comments. While I'm in the group of people that think that if you commit the crime you should pay for it, I also applaud Charlie for stepping up and commenting about his situation. That takes a different sort of courage than required for living the life of an ultra, and my opinion of you, based on both your portrayal in the movie and the piece that was linked to has changed quite a bit for the positive. Thank you for that.

  23. Well said, Charlie. Thanks so much for your comments.

    I apologize if my choice of words offended you, and appreciate you adding the dialogue in such a constructive way. Best of luck in 2011, and I hope to see you on the trails.


  24. JWW,

    Probable cause is not needed to investigate someone or an event, only for arrest. Like Jen stated before it's an uncomfortable feeling, but it occurs more often than people think and not just in matters of law.


    Thank you for commenting, it's not always that you hear directly back from the source of the discussion. I look forward to learning your side of the matter later.

    Good luck to you.


  25. Thanks to those that commented back to me, here and privately.

    Scott, I am a writer and I understand the temptation to to take a good story and add to it. No worries on my part. I am known for having a twisted sense of humor. That is how I read your blog. I am pretty thick skinned. I would only ask that you consider telling the real story later on, even if it's not as much fun. The folks that paid for Running the Sahara and my teammates deserve that. They are good people. And all those involved in the expedition know where I stand and what I did. That works for me. Keep in touch, although you may have to write me letters for a while.

  26. Charlie -

    You got a deal, my man. I will reach out to you via e-mail/Facebook with some interview questions so we can get your voice in this story. We can always go snail-mail if you find yourself inaccessible.

    Thx, SD

  27. I say give the guy a break! I Really feel if we dug a little deeper into most people's backgrounds we come up with a little dirt they were not too proud of. Keep you head held high Charlie! Let he whom is without sin cast the first stone.

  28. Latest update:

    On 1/10/11, a district judge sentenced Charlie Engle to 21 months in jail, 100 hrs of community service, and repayment of $265,500 in loans. He will report to a federal prison by Feb 14th.

    His friends and supporters organized a race in his honor the day before, and sent over 120 letters to the judge in support of him. He gives more of his perspective in this article.

    I've reached out to Charlie to give an interview, although I suspect he's pretty busy right now.


  29. Engle is not just twice the runner you are; he is twice the man.

  30. To Whomever is Trying to Post the Threats:

    Okay, okay, got your point. You don't have to send a million posts with misspelled swear words. Charlie's your friend, you're going to kick my ass next time you see me, etcetra, etcetra.

    Message received. You can now go anonymously harass somebody else for a while.

  31. Ultra runners do not hate on other Ultra runners. Scott you have shown your sincerity to Charlie. Charlie will have find that because of how Ultra runners treat each other, that his family will be supported while he is gone. I doubt that some of these comments are coming from true Ultra runners.

  32. Engle's blog says he is sentenced to 21 months in a Virginia-based prison starting on Feb 14th, 2011:

  33. Interesting that one of your favorite movies is Shawshank Redemption. Does that mean that you believe it is possible for a person to be wrongly sent to prison?

  34. A great article about Charlie in Friday's NYT

  35. Scott, Seems like it would be fair to do a new blog posting in light of more information coming out (like the NYT article above) and this posting being mentioned in the latest Trail Runner mag. Besides being about a runner, the whole "rogue IRS agent plus Feds target one in several million" and the "punishing the borrower, but not the lender/broker" stories is pretty fascinating. But, at the least concerning the trail running side of life, it would be nice to clarify that it was not (as your blog title stated) a "fraud-funded Sahara run". S

  36. S -

    It would be good to refresh this story with the new information and provide a different angle. Charlie's Facebook feed is pretty fascinating too, chronicling each day in jail.

    The threats of violence to me and my family that came from this post crossed a line I prefer not to encounter again. So I will not be writing further about Mr. Engle's predicament.

    But if you see someone else write about it, do stop by and provide a link so we can get as broad of a picture as possible.

    Thx, SD

  37. Scott,

    Thanks for the answer. Really sorry to hear that anyone would threaten violence like that. That's truly disgusting and uncalled for.

    I was among those who (while usually enjoying your blog) thought your original post on the matter was pretty obnoxious and in poor taste, but nobody is perfect and an occasional lapse in judgment doesn't make anyone a bad person.

    I had actually forgotten about it until the Trail Running article came out and referenced it. In light of that new exposure to your original post, I thought it might make sense if you were to now "man up" and admit that you were in fact a little too cavalier in making light of what is a serious matter for Charlie and his family (though hopefully not with the classic cop out "I'm sorry if anyone was offended").

    If you feel that might engender more threats, etc., or if you feel the original post was justified and fair to Charlie and his family, then that's another matter. The safety and protection of one's family is always paramount and I'm sure Charlie would agree.

    In the meanwhile, I think the NYT article and the Trail Running mag article were both fair and well written and they seem to be slowly generating more interest in the matter. They got me back to your blog! It will be interesting to see if this story gains traction on a national level. S

  38. That would be awesome if Engle's story somehow drew more attention and action to the people who created the atmosphere for large scale mortgage abuse. We shall see.

    Speaking of "man up", how about you sign your name to your comments? ;-)


  39. I agree with anonymous. I think most would be impressed that you (in an effort to be fair) shared the story that the New York Times felt was important enough to place on the front page of their business section.

    I don't see this as an issue of "man-ing up". I see this as a question of "fair up", are you going to be fair to Charlie and the story?

  40. Ha! You make an excellent point! If it's okay with you, I'd prefer to remain anonymous for now and I'll "out" myself and explain why I chose to not sign my name publicly the next time we meet in person, and then you can judge whether you agree or if it was just a cop-out on my part.

    I hope you don't equate anything I've said with any anonymous person trying to put you down or make threats against you. S

  41. I think the NYTimes did a fabulous job writing the "balanced" story - I'll just point people there rather than dig in again.

  42. Here's a lighter fraud story for y'all -

    A corrections officer from MA pleaded guilty of workers compensation fraud after being caught running the Disney Marathon while receiving workers comp. He said "...he was so hurt, he required a tax-free paycheck for the rest of his life", but did squeeze in a marathon. Good stuff.

  43. Curious as to why my "attempted post" that did not see the light of day was censored by you. I followed rules, signed my name etc. You made the workers comp post after I submitted mine, so you were engaged in your blog.

    Is it because you can dish it out but not cannot take a little criticism? You published posts from people calling you some serious names, but not not mine saying that I wasn't surprised that you wouldn't dig back in, and questioned the motives behind your's and other mainstream media outlet's coverage of this story. No profanity, no threats yet my opinion is censored by you.

    As I stated before, journalistic integrity is tough, however apparently censorship is easy.

    Personally after reading your stuff I was surprised you chose that action.

    From what I can see on the web, this story may not go away soon. 15 plus sources (some of them big names) picked up on the NY Times piece. Still when anyone googles "Charlie Engle" your blog and the "fraud funded" headline is front and center. From the looks of things you may end up on the wrong side of the truth.

  44. Chip -

    I found your comments in my "spam" folder. I guess you can call that censorship if you want, but it wasn't intentional. Instead what is happening is that I'm getting so many new (and mostly anonymous) comments on this thread, my computer is just assuming it's all spam.

    It sounds like what is frustrating to you is that this blog post continues to appear in the top of Google searches about Charlie. I feel like I should point out a few things here in hopes that it is helpful:

    1) I am not a journalist. I'm a blogger, and as Charlie himself stated above, I primarily comment on other stories and ask a lot of open questions (whether in good taste or not). I don't fact check...Lord, I don't even spell check. You can hold me to the high standard of journalistic integrity and response time, but quite frankly, you're just shouting at the rain.

    2) I did reach out to Charlie on Facebook soon after he commented and offered some interview questions to get his side of the story (and thus have it posted on this blog and help with the Google search rankings), but he never replied. He posts every day on Facebook from jail, so I know he's seen the request. Given your comment about not getting a response from me, I'm sure you know how that feels on my end. That being said, however, if I were in Charlie's shoes I don't think I would reply - there are real journalists that dig into facts that can tell his story better (NYTimes). It's far more legitimate if you ask me, and quite frankly, the NYTimes has much better story than the one I originally linked to.

    3) The reason this story keeps coming up on top in Google searches for Charlie's name is because EVERYONE KEEPS ADDING COMMENTS. Each time a comment is added, Google indexes it again, and so the page stays "fresh". The NYTimes article goes directly to the Google news feed, so it's not treated the same way. In addition, there are lots of other bloggers linking to it, but much like the Trail Runner Magazine story, they link to it to cite the comment thread, not the blog content. Essentially, the comments are now the story and continue to keep it alive.

    4) When the press contact me about the Charlie Engle story, they only want to talk about the threats made to me and my family by "friends of Engle" so they can paint a more extreme picture. I continue to get threats, unfortunately, but as colorful as they are, that's not the Charlie Engle story. So I say "no comment" and do my best to overdo it when screening more comments being added.

    5) This may be surprising, but the traffic to this blog post isn't that high, and really took a dip after the NYTimes article was written. We're talking low hundreds per week now, which is a factor of 20x lower than I usually see for a popular article (like "compression socks" or "toenail necklace"). I share this only to point out that the greater public is likely not reading this. I think this is a good thing - the real journalists have taken this story now, and will likely keep it.

    I'm not trying to defend or justify any of my actions here, just putting my thoughts down, which is really all a blogger ever does. I will look for your follow up comment in my spam folder if you want to reply, but don't be surprised if this blog post continues to be in the top 3 of Google searches if you do.


  45. You're wrong, I couldn't care less where your blog appears in a Google search.

    If you read my original post, I had agreed with "anonymous" in that it would seem "fair to do a new blog posting, in light of more information coming out."

    Fairness is the only issue.

  46. Dear Scott,

    Thank you for taking the time to read my book "Running on Empty" (Penguin/Avery) and for your review. After racing along side of Charlie (how better to get to know someone)in exotic locations I came to know his many faces. As you already know, my book ROE may shed some light on the subject at's worth reading just to get the "scoop" on Charlie (think shoot out at the not so okay corral). And be advised everything in the book was in print before Charlie was indited, so that couldn't infulence what I wrote in the book.

    I know that I run the risk of being accused of shamelessly self promoting my book here, but my intent is to provide more information on the interesting subject of a dynamic personality, that being Charlie Engle.

    Scott, I appreciate your honesty and obvious integrity, I tend to call 'em as I see 'em too. And thanks for producing a terrific blog that allows for everyones input.


    Marshall Ulrich

  47. Interesting reading

  48. Runners World story,7120,s6-238-511-0-13905-0,00.html

  49. PBS story on Charlie -

    Charlie is rotting away for 21 months, not 111 days. The people who masterminded and executed this massive housing bubble bust are all living large with massive bonus money extracted fraudulently when THEY are the ones who should be in jail for this epic fraud.

  50. It's absurd that people are turning Charlie Engle into a martyr. I would argue that Matt Damon's view of Engle is clouded by his relationship with him. His water "project" was clearly an afterthought to his own ambition. If it was not, than the documentary did a poor job of conveying the true purpose of the expedition. Yes, most of those that orchestrated the financial crisis walked no worse for the wear. Ignoring bank, mail, and wire fraud, doesn't fix that. Tighter regulatory controls are needed.

  51. Read the article in the September Issue of Men's Journal, teaser below. Interesting stuff...

  52. Check out the September issue of Men's Journal. Pretty in depth story on Engle and his case

  53. Read the article re: Engle in May 2011 issue of TR. He's gone from one extreme to another. Reading between the lines, my perception of him is a spoiled man-child who fails and/or refuses to face reality; i.e., put his nose to the grindstone and become a productive member of society.

    That said, no doubt he'll leverage his 'hard time' into a publicity deal that devotees will shell out $20 to hear all about. The title of his inevitable Book should be "Shortcut-city".

    Jealous of Engle? Maybe a little, but at least I can say I pay my own way.

    -Attorney (in *private* practice)


  55. Gotta love the back tax list! Keep it up.

  56. I have a few points, 1st the docu was pretty kool. 2nd Charlie is ego driven 3rd he did fund his run with the money, think about it ( yes he got 30k from doing it 4th The IRS guy is a tool, imagine a off duty cop sitting on the porch and seeing a person not signal at the stop sign, so what he's gonna now chase that guy down and ticket him, ha... I agree instead of being inspired the IRS tool did what many humans do, went to the negative side of the docu to try and better himself at the cost of someone that was trying to promote some good, typical. And to all the people here saying he was a thief law breaker etc.. EVERY single ONE of you break at least ONE law I day, I can guarantee that! Remember speeding down the highway is Illegal, yes even 1mph over is wrong. The bottom line is that he did WAY more Right with this docu!

  57. As an average Joe who watched the movie.. my hat is off to those who tolerate Charlie. He is not repectful at all to those around him and appears self centered.

  58. Another NY Times piece of Charlie and his situation

  59. wonder why no one ever brought to light that his ex wife and his ex girlfriend lost their homes too during all of this? Both had cash out refinances in '06 as well. These two mortgage defaults were only two of several.... there's so much more to this sad sad story.

  60. I just watched the Sahara documentary and was interested to know more about the three runners.
    I have to admit that as a personality, I was unimpressed by Mr. Engels and found him to be overbearing and a bit of a bully.
    However, I knew nothing of his IRS woes until I read several articles.
    I was appalled that he was convicted in Federal Court whilst so many Bankers are walking away with huge bonuses.
    It's even more galling that he is being asked to pay Bank of America almost $250,000.
    I just had a friend be foreclosed by them and they are disgusting in their tactics.
    There is no justice in this.
    Several years ago (around 2002)I was encouraged to take out a loan to buy a house by a broker.
    I had previously owned homes with my ex husband in Scotland, USA and France.
    They kept calling me telling me that they could get a loan despite the fact I had no money to put down and my income was at that time modest.
    Luckily, I refused because I knew that in my previous home ownership, I might run in to problems.
    These people are sharks and it is a disgrace that they selected Mr. Engels as a scapegoat and easy target.

  61. Brain Williams 30 Rock show this Thursday night will have a segment on Charlie.

  62. Charlie's saga is getting more attention now that IRS investigative tactics have become public. He was mentioned on the Daily Show, Jay Thomas interviewed him yesterday, etc.
    Bottom line is if any IRS agent wants your hide, they will get it on way or another.

  63. I found the documentary fascinating, but I found Charlie to be a self-centered egotist and grew sick of listening to him. ... I didn't blame the crew for leaving for Cairo .... They were being treated like crap by Charlie, and were clearly sick of it.
    I did get a chuckle out of Charlie's repeated use of the word "expedition" ... It just makes it sound so much more important than calling it a "run" doesn't it?.... LOL ... Let's call it an expedition, and maybe they'll put us on a par with Lewis and Clark. ... Not quite, Charlie. ... And if this "expedition" was filmed to shed light on the clean water issues in that region, then they did a HORRIBLE job of emphasizing that fact. ...They spent more time talking about the RUN helping them find a "new level of self discovery" than anything else. ..... huh? ... That's agnostic mumbo jumbo, meaning: "I don't believe in God and since I don't take drugs anymore, I have to run to fill the void." ......To me, the RUN was really more about a bullying drug addict, and two of his "yes" men, running a long way across the desert. ... Weird, but fascinating, Charlie.

  64. That Charlie dude just finished 5th at Badwater, set a record for 50+ age group, apparently he didn't forget how to run in prison.

    Surely another ITS investigation is warranted, as his running success was the genesis for the first investigation.

  65. I'm sure Charlie would agree with that viewpoint -- given his level of egocentricity. In fact, I wouldn't be stunned if it were Charlie who posted that last bit of nonsense.
    Yeah ... the ITS investigation wasn't about Charlie's dishonesty ... it was all about jealousy.
    Pardon me, while I puke.

  66. Just saw this documentary at a friend's house. The one thing that bothered me the most was the fact that if someone else other than Charlie got sick or injured, talk quickly surfaced (always from Charlie) of the expedition continuing without them. But when Charlie couldn't run at the end, no such talk surfaced. I wonder what Charlie's reaction would have been if the other two runners had simply blown past him and left his ass behind after he pulled his little "you guys stay behind and I'll walk for a while" trick. You get the feeling Charlie would have been a little upset?


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