Charles Koen (born 1945), also known as Chuck Koen, is a civil rights activist. Koen worked with organizations in Southern Illinois during the mid- and late 1960s. He founded the Black Liberators in St. Louis, Missouri in 1968; he later went on to lead nationally noted campaigns in Cairo, Illinois. During his Cairo struggles, Koen was honored with a tribute on an album by jazz drummer Max Roach.
Koen was convicted and sentenced on May 21, 1991, to 12 years imprisonment, ordered to pay over $636,000 in restitution, and $5,000 in penalties. His sentence stems from a conviction on charges of embezzlement, misapplication of Federal Program Funds, theft of public money, false statements, arson and mail fraud. He was ordered to make restitution to the City of Cairo, Illinois, for the disability payments to a fireman who was injured while extinguishing the fire for which Koen was convicted. The 1985 arson destroyed the building which housed the UFI (United Front) a social service agency founded by Koen in the late 1960s. The defense contended that the blaze could have been ignited by a firebomb thrown by the Ku Klux Klan.
An all-white jury found that the fire was an act in a scheme to collect $550,000 from an insurance policy and a means by which Koen attempted to conceal his alleged theft of Government grant funds over Koen's evidence that the proceeds were used to rebuild the building. U.S. v Koen (S.D. Illinois)
In another indictment last year, Koen is charged with a class 1 unauthorized control of property over $500,000. He is accused of exerting unauthorized control of an abandoned building in Harvey, Illinois whereby he allegedly accepted a deed on the property on behalf of United Front. The building was once owned by the now defunct United Way of Harvey. The Illinois Attorney General charged Koen with unauthorized control over the property despite the fact that the Attorney General failed to act against the previous owners of the building who allowed the building go to waste by failing to pay property taxes for several years and failing to pay utilities on the property for months at a time.
On January 24, 2008, Charles Koen was indicted again, along with a number of other United Front members for allegedly stealing more than $2 million from banks and taxpayers. They were accused of running a sham training program in carpentry for disadvantaged youth.
Koen was the subject of the FBI's Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), an infiltration program sanctioned by former FBI Chief J. Edgar Hoover and President Richard M. Nixon against Black activist and activist groups in the 1960s and 1970s. Targets of this scheme were individuals and groups such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, H. Rap Brown, Charles Koen, Medgar Evers, the Black Panthers, the Black Liberators and others. The essence of this FBI ploy was to cause division in and amongst Black leadership to prevent organization and unity in the black and poor communities around the nation. Those that were not killed or were not successfully infiltrated were constant subjects of criminal arrests and indictments.
- Eduardo Bonilla-Silva (2001), White Supremacy and Racism in the Post-Civil Rights Era, Lynne Rienner Publishers, ISBN 978-1-58826-032-1
- Simon Hall (2006), Peace and Freedom: The Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements in the 1960s, University ofPennsylvania, ISBN 978-0-8122-1975-3
- Office of Inspector General, US Department of Labor, April 1-September 30, 1991
- Chicago Sun Times, January 26, 2008