Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Warning: Be careful of fraudulent philanthropies

FTC says four cancer charities diverted $187 million of donors' money meant for patients

The Federal Trade Commission has called four cancer philanthropies a sham, claiming they bilked contributors of $187 million.

The charges were filed in a civil complaint.

No criminal charges were pending.

According to a recent article in the Washington Postthe charities' telemarketing and websites declared that the donations would pay for patients' pain meds, hospice services and other care. 

But, the FTC said, the bulk of the contributions actually benefitted the charities' three organizers, their friends and fundraisers — with less than 5 percent going to patients' needs.

A sidebar article by Ariana Eunjung Cha listed five reasons the government took so long to catch on. Among them:

• "The government is overwhelmed" by the sheer number of public charities — more than 1,050,000.

• The IRS has been "disincentivized from pursuing cases against charities."
Myra Miblowit of BCRF

• "The names of cancer charities, even legitimate ones, are confusingly similar to one another." The writer quotes Myra Biblowit, president of the respected Breast Cancer Research Foundation, as saying, "It is vitally important that donors utilize charity watchdog organizations to vet non-profits for transparency and efficiency."

"Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," my new VitalityPress book that's aimed at male caregivers, includes a chapter, "Where Men Can Find Help," that lists organizations (including the BCRF), books and other resources I have vetted as being legitimate and useful.

The Post's main story — carrying the triple byline of Peter Whoriskey, Brady Dennis and Ariana Eunjung Cha — reported that "the scheme was a family effort," with each of the four charities run by either James Reynolds Sr.; his son, James Reynolds Jr.; or the father's ex-wife, Rose Perkins.

The money in question was raised between 2008 and 2012 by the Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services, the Children's Cancer Fund of America and the Breast Cancer Society.

An agreement calls for the three family members to be banned from fundraising and charity management, and for the dissolution of the Children's Cancer Fund and the Breast Cancer Society.

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