As told to me by Marian Crocker, former Project Coordinator for Stan Cottrell’s Great Global Friendship Run.
Moscow to Berlin
My husband and I met Stan Cottrell in 1990 when we had a travel agency in Atlanta.
He was doing a run from Moscow to Berlin. He brought with him some very impressive people to meet, locals with big businesses in the Atlanta area. According to Stan this was going to be big, and a movie was going to be made. It was all being done in the name of friendship. Stan told us he had very good connections with lots of people in many countries and could open doors to all kinds of possibilities.
We helped plan the run. We arranged for fireworks, to have bands play when he arrived in Berlin to finish the run, pen pal writing through Barbara Bush, and all the travel arrangements for everyone involved. We helped coordinate meetings with some investors for the project. There were two sisters from California who were very wealthy, who had ties with a very famous religious leader, who were providing the main financial backing for the run. Stan had a film director who was filming the whole event.
When the time came for all this to happen, for some unknown reason, the sisters backed out. We never knew the reason why. Stan did go to Russia, but there were no bands to greet him, no fireworks. There was no run.
Later it was discovered that money had gone missing and bills were not paid. All of the printed materials for the run had been ordered through Stan’s non-profit company, and the work was supposed to be paid for through this company. But the bills never got paid, and the printing company came after us. They even put it on our credit report.
Our lives became increasingly difficult. Because the unpaid bills ruined our credit, we had to close our travel business. It was a fairly new business and we believed our involvement with Stan would help us grow. But it did not. Sadly, we had to close the doors. But it didn’t stop the bill collectors from hounding us.
At the time, we had no idea how this all happened. We never did find out why the sisters backed out. We attempted to contact them many times to find out, but they never responded to us.
After we closed our business my husband went back into his previous career of auto design engineering. We had very busy lives raising our children and at some points in our journey moved to other states, and even to other countries. I stayed in touch with Stan and him with me, but very sparingly. I could count on one hand the times we talked to each other after we left Atlanta.
The Great Global Friendship Run
In April of 2009 we were living in Michigan and my husband lost his job in the auto industry. We moved back to Atlanta because this is where our children lived and most of our friends. I called many people we knew in Atlanta, including Stan, to let them know we had moved back to the area.
In August 2009 Stan called me saying he wanted to meet my husband and me to talk about a business opportunity he thought we would be interested in. We met him at Le Madeleine near Perimeter Mall. He told us he was president of a company called Aeon that provided internet phone service, and said if we worked with him in his new business we could make a very good living. My husband wasn’t interested in pursuing the phone business, but we continued to have conversations with Stan about other business opportunities.
He mentioned his plan to run in 66 countries at the age of 66, running 33 miles a day for 2 successive days in each country. He told us about these great international contacts he had, and if we agreed to work with him on putting the run together it would make us all a very comfortable living.
We got very excited about it and decided to help make it happen. My husband started working on it right away. He spent every waking moment working on this. He has business contacts in other countries, and he worked with them to do the work necessary for the run team as they moved from country to country.
It is very complicated to travel to some of these countries. You can’t just fly to the airport there and expect them to let you in. You have to make arrangement for visas. Some countries won’t let you in if your passport is less than 6 months old.
Then there was the issue of the weather. Stan told us he was able to run only within a specific temperature range, so we had to arrange the run based on what the weather conditions would be in each country. It required a great deal of coordination and detail.
I do not exaggerate when I say my husband worked on this day and night. We had meeting after meeting with Stan to plan it. Stan was constantly calling my husband to let him know he wanted to introduce him to people who could help with the effort.
My husband served as Chief Operating Officer for the run team, and I was one of several Project Coordinators. Everyone was so excited to be part of the Great Global Friendship Run. Everybody was doing their part to make it happen.
We worked with Stan to put together a team of creative people, videographers, photographers, writers, web designers, and other professionals to prepare materials to present to investors. We coordinated the creation of videos, blogs, and a website to promote the run. We devoted our time, 24/7, to do whatever was needed to make it happen.
Then Stan told us God told him not to stop at 66 countries, but to run in all 267 countries of the world. He told us it would take 5 or 6 years and we would have a whole film crew and be making movies, selling motivation videos, workout videos, the whole shebang.
All this was being done in the name of friendship and good will. It would better the USA’s image. We started telling our family and friends we would be out of the country soon for the next 5 or 6 years. They were very excited for us, knowing we would be part of the biggest sporting event in the history of the world.
We Lose Our Home
The work we did for the run team, from August 2009, we were doing for free. We weren’t getting paid to do this. We believed in the vision for the project.
Stan told us he had done a run across Bulgaria a few years before, and he needed $1,200 to get the editing done to complete a film about the run.
We had been unemployed for some time and our home was in foreclosure. We began selling our furniture and other personal items in preparation to move out. We sold the very last of our personal items and gave our last $1,200 to Stan to pay for the final editing of the film about the Bulgaria run. Having a completed film would be very useful in persuading sponsors and investors to provide financial backing. We told ourselves it was for the cause, and we would get it back tenfold when the project took off.
We lost our home in March of 2010 and moved in with friends.
Things Didn’t Seem Right
As time went on I began to notice some things just didn’t seem right about Stan.
He would commit to do something and never get it done. He would be at meetings, and in the middle of the meeting he would talk on the phone all the time. Other times he would even excuse himself from the meeting and say he must take a call, and he would leave the room. It was very unprofessional and rude.
I mentioned all these things to my husband. My husband said they were just Stan’s little character flaws and to just ignore them.
I noticed more and more things weren’t quite right. He knew we had no income except for unemployment, and whenever we met with him or traveled with him he would constantly say he had no cash. He told us all he had was an American Express card, and we would somehow end up at places where they didn’t take American Express.
We were driving to places where Stan wanted to meet, and I would get irritated because it was costing us more and more in gas and in paying for his hot chocolate he drank all the time. Whenever we met, he never seemed to have eaten, and he never seemed to have any cash. He could tell I was irritated, and a few times he handed me $2 for his hot chocolate.
We would meet with possible team members and we would talk about what they could do to help with the run. If they asked for money to get paid for the work they were going to do, Stan would get angry.
They didn’t even have to ask for money outright. If they just hinted at the possibility they wanted to get paid for the work, Stan would get very angry and say later if they had the vision they would do the work for free.
He would complain when we met with possible investors. He told us they should be paying him what the gets for his speaking fees for meeting with them.
During our time with the run team I had to have surgery. After my surgery, all the other members of the run team would ask about how I was doing. Stan never did. When we lost our home he never expressed any concern at all for us or for our situation.
I thought all this was strange, but my husband said to just overlook it.
My husband had contact with a very influential person in Tulsa, Oklahoma who could be a great partner for the run. He wanted to meet Stan, so in July 2010 we arranged to drive from Atlanta to Tulsa to meet him.
The day we left for Tulsa, Stan told us while he was pruning a tree at his mountain home in north Georgia the day before, he had slipped and fallen down a 60 foot embankment. My husband decided it was best for him to do all the driving for the 12 hour trip.
We stayed overnight in a hotel during our trip. We paid for the hotel.
When we got to Tulsa the person we met paid for all our hotel and food expenses. But Stan was not happy. He said this man should be giving us seed money for the run. We thought this was very strange because this person had gone out of his way to pay for our expenses so he could meet Stan. What Stan wanted is not the way business is done.
We filmed a video there to use to promote the run, and attended several meetings with some very influential people and possible sponsors. Stan was again very rude, taking calls in the middle of meetings. He would excuse himself from the room and say he must take calls.
While we were still in Tulsa he told us he hurt his back and couldn’t move at all. We were very worried about him and we rushed him to the emergency room.
While I was helping him get his insurance information at the hospital I found a Visa card in his wallet. I got really irritated because all that time he had said all he had was American Express, and we always seemed to end up at places that didn’t take American Express, and we had been paying for so many of his expenses.
They admitted him to the hospital. We called his wife, Carol, and she said to just get him out of the hospital and drive him home. My husband and I both found this to be very strange, but she said it had happened before and he would be just fine. They kept him in the hospital for the next few days, and then they released him and we drove him home.
On the drive home from Tulsa Stan made lots of phone calls, and his phone rang a lot of times. He was in the back seat whispering into the phone and being very secretive. I thought it was very strange.
We Learn The Truth
The day we got home from Tulsa we had a message on a Facebook page we had created for the run. It was a very angry message. The person thought he was communicating with Stan. He said some pretty horrible things about how Stan had hurt his family. We asked Stan about it and he said it was just some angry person from a business he was in a long time ago. Now we know it was Dr. Joseph Resnick, whose story is on your blog.
The very next day I got a message on Facebook from your mother-in-law, Peggy Smith. I didn’t know who she was. She wanted to meet with me to talk about Stan.
We met, and she had a stack of emails with her an inch thick, photos, and even dvds of her and Stan. She told me her story, how she had become romantically involved with him, how he said he wanted to marry her, how he told her he was in the CIA and a general in the Marines. She told me how she began to suspect things about him, how she had him investigated, and how he had lied to her about being separated from his wife for a year and in the process of a divorce. She told us about the other women she had talked to who Stan had had affairs with, and how he had told them lies, too.
Both my husband and I met with your mother-in-law again later that week. We knew none of the things Stan told her about himself were true. We knew it was all lies. We had talked many times over the previous year with his wife. We knew he wasn’t in the military because he spent so many hours almost every day with us on the phone and in meetings.
We shared with her what had happened on our trip to Tulsa, and we compared notes.
We told her what he had said about falling at his mountain home. She told us he had told her on the phone he had fallen during our trip to Tulsa. He told her he was having photographs taken for promotional materials for the run, and he had stepped back and fallen down a 60 foot embankment. No one really knows how he got hurt, or if he was really hurt at all.
We told her about his strange behavior on the phone in the car on the way home from Tulsa. We found out your mother-in-law was one of the people he had been whispering to on the phone. We found out at least one of them was another one of his girlfriends who he had promised to marry.
Your mother-in-law told us when she started asking Stan detailed questions about the worldwide run, he told her there was not going to be any run at all. When we found out we had spent a whole year of our lives working without getting paid to put together a run Stan never intended to do, we were in shock.
He Was Lying to Everybody
After we met with your mother-in-law, my husband and I called the other team members. We compared notes, and told them things Stan had told us about them, and we asked them to tell us what he had told them about us. We found out he was lying to everybody.
We took the run website down and the run team was disbanded.
We realized Stan was saying things to purposely keep team members away from each other. He was playing everybody against each other. He would ask us to communicate with the other team members through him. Now we know he did this because he would tell one party one thing, and the other party something else, and he didn’t want any of us to know.
We found out after he introduced my husband and me to potential team members or investors, he would tell them later my husband was a member of the international intelligence community, he was in charge of security for the run, and he had put together a team of 70,000 people to provide security for all of the people who would be traveling from country to country on the support teams for the run. None of this was true.
We found out one of the investors had paid the key people on the team for the work they were doing. This person knew my husband was doing a lot of work, and when he asked about making sure my husband got paid, Stan told the investor not to pay him anything because he didn’t need the money.
The investor believed Stan. He thought my husband didn’t need the money. Stan told the investor to just give him the money he intended to pay my husband.
Stan knew both of us were unemployed. We had lost our home and sold our possessions. We had given him our last $1,200 to pay for the editing of the film about his run across Bulgaria.
And now we know that there really was no run across Bulgaria. One of the people on your blog, Karen Francis, was there with him, and saw that he only ran a few miles into and out of each town, and he rode in a van the rest of the time. He never ran all the way across the country like he said he did.
We knew Stan was acting strangely, but we had no idea he was just using us, and having affairs, and telling so many big lies to so many people. Now we know the whole thing, the worldwide run, was just a big smokescreen to get money.
Stan just uses people to get what he wants. He has no feelings for anyone except himself. He uses people, gets what he wants, and throws them away like a dirty tissue.
October 28, 2010