As we have all definitely seen the ALS ice bucket challenge which has gone around recently there has been news which has not been confirmed about where exactly the money is going to and it seems only 27% of the nearly $100 million which has been donated has actually gone directly to research and this is just one example of many bad charities. Now that’s aside I have decided to put together a list of confirmed 10 Charities That Weren’t So Charitable.
Table of Contents
- 10) Covenant House (CH)
- 9) United Way of America (UWA)
- 8) Feed the Children (FC)
- 7) Angel food Ministries (AFM)
- 6) Central Asia Institute (CAI)
- 5) Help Hospitalized Veterans (HHV) & Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes (CSAH)
- 4) Charity One Inc.
- 3) The Deniz Feneri charity
- 2) Foundation for New Era Philanthropy (New Era)
- 1) United States Navy Veterans Institute (USNVA)
10) Covenant House (CH)
Father Bruce Ritter established Covenant House in 1972 to give shelter to homeless teenagers. At first the Charity was exactly what it set out to be and it quickly grew into a well-known and well-respected charity in the nation. He even got a claim for his charitable work from the likes such as President Reagan, President Bush and Mother Teresa. With this being said rumours has started appearing over years about Ritter’s sexual relations to the residents at CH.
4 people stepped up against Ritter between 1989 -1990. Although he denied the charges he stepped down from CH. Covenant House then led their own investigation into Ritter and found evidence to support that he had at least 15 cases of sexual relations with residents.
The structure of CH made it so the board of directors had little authority and made it so Ritter could do as he pleased with all the money the charity made and with some of the money he funded one of his other charities the Franciscan Charitable Trust and loaned money to two senior staff member who then later resigned.
9) United Way of America (UWA)
William Aramony was the CEO and President of United Way of America for 22 years. William Aramony was a well respected individual and was a very influential non-profit leader who even played a part in creating some of the rules in which charities still use today, however his reputation soon fell apart in 1992 when he resigned due to allegations that he used funds from the UWA to give to companies he had helped create.
That scandal went even further than this because what it is most well-known for is his other ‘expenses’. He used money from the charity to pursue Lori Villasor who was only 17. When they was dating he would use UWA money to buy things like a $450,000 condo which was fully furnished in New York, $78,000 on a chauffeur which would drive her where ever she liked and vacations all over the world. Aramony’s former aide Rina Duncan whom he also had an affair with testified to falsifying his expense records for 7 years.
Aramony had also been known for his inappropriate ways with female colleagues as he would offer them ‘financial benefits’ in return for sex, however when the women refused he would simply just transfer them.
8) Feed the Children (FC)
Larry Jones, former president of Feed the Children was involved in many scandals. His face was well recognised at the time because he even starred in FC’s infomercials that featured malnourished children over the world. During his 30 years as president he was in the centre of financial impropriety but this never led to his resignation. An investigation took place in 1999 which revealed that executives from FC would simply take boxes from their warehouses and take them for themselves.
Jones has also made major decisions without the board’s approval like awarding a $40 million annual, no-bid television buying agreement to a company that employed Jones’ son, Allen. This was no surprise since Allen was in huge debts to FC of nearly $1 million. Despite all the many scandals he remained president until 30 years later when the board finally taken action against him when he admitted to wiretapping offices so he could record conversations he had with colleagues. So in light of this he tried to completely get with of FC’s board to create another one which would be more loyal to him but this failed. He then tried to file a lawsuit under wrongful termination, which also failed.
7) Angel food Ministries (AFM)
Joe Wingo, his wife Linda Wingo and their son Andy owned the non-profit charity Angel Food Ministries. Joe Wingo, who served as a pastor in a church that he founded started the charity in 1994 after a year since coming out of a prison for extortion charges. Its goal was to sell food to the needy for very affordable prices by buying in bulks and this was enough to convince the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) to issue a $7 million low-interest loan in 2005.
In 2011 they decided to shut their charity down and 2 months later federal investigators did a 4 year-long investigation on the company. They found evidence that they bought things for personal gain things like cars, sporting goods, electronics and even a down payment on an aircraft which was then leased back to the charity. They issued millions of dollars worth of ‘bonuses’ back to their family. Since the charity was under investigation they tried to cover up their tracks by giving the money back and coming up with complex schemes to cover up all their tracks and destroy evidence which was used to support political campaigns.
This however was unsuccessful and in 2013 Joe Wingo had admitted to prosecutors that he used his place at AFM to make personal purchases with charity funds and then tried to hide these expenditures. Joe and Andy was convicted to 7 years in a federal prison and was ordered to give back $3.9 million dollars between them and Linda was sentenced to 5 years probation for having knowledge of the crime and concealing its commission.
6) Central Asia Institute (CAI)
Greg Mortenson founder of Central Asia Institute and Author of New York Times best-selling books Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools was a very well-known in philanthropic and literary communities until he was investigated in 2009. This was because there was very little difference in CAI’s expenses and Mortenson’s expenses. Financial records show that CAI actually funded his book promotions and speaking events yet the charity in return never seen any money from the sales of the books or speaking events even though he charged $25,000-$30,000 per event. This means all the profit from the events must have led back directly to Mortenson himself.
In 2009 CAI opened up and said only 41% of all donations went to building or supporting schools. A company called 60 Minutes surveyed about 30 schools that CAI claimed to have built, finding that roughly half of them was empty and some wasn’t built by CAI at all. They argued that the money spent on speaking events at which his books should also be counted as a charitable program but that year CAI spent $1.7 million on ‘book-related costs’ like advertising, events, film and professional fees, publications, and travel but this was directly from CAI and no mention of Mortenson’s finances himself.
Montana Attorney General announced a settlement agreement requiring Mortenson was to pay more than $1 million in restitution for financial wrongdoing at the charity he founded.
5) Help Hospitalized Veterans (HHV) & Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes (CSAH)
Roger Chaplin described himself as a “non-profit entrepreneur” and he founded over 30 charities in over 40 years. His claims ranged from curing Alzheimer’s disease and cancer, to assisting veterans. This however proved to be wrong and what he actually did was making himself and his friends rich as this proved on his financial record instead of helping the causes he set out to originally do.
Just 2 of his Charities Help Hospitalized Veterans (HHV) & Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes (CSAH) was investigated between 2004 & 2006 and it was believed just 25% of the $168 million went towards actually helping the veterans. During the same period Chaplin spent over $2 million on things like a luxury condo and expenses like hotels and restaurant bills as well as other expenses.
Chaplin would use the likes of celebrities and even paid General Tommy Franks $100,000 for endorsements to help boost fund-raising. He was highlighted for his inefficient spending but he used schemes to make his spending at both HHV and CSAH to seem highly efficient when in reality most of the cash generated was not going towards the veterans. When Chaplin retired from HHV in 2009 he rewarded himself a $1.9 million payout which was for ‘retirement’ in addition to his 6 figure salary and benefits.
Roger Chapin passed away in August 2013 just as he and other directors of HHV had reached a settlement with the California Attorney General’s office requiring them to resign from the charity and to pay a collective $2.5 million in restitution
4) Charity One Inc.
Brian J Brown was the former president of National Relief Charities, an organization that devotes its energy into improving the quality of life for Native Americans. When stepped down from his place in 2005 he shortly started up a company called Charity One Inc, which claimed to be a group devoted to promoting education for First Nations children. This, however was not the case and was simply a bogus charity to acquire money from NRC from 2006-2009 which allegedly he used all the money for personal benefit such as buying a $275,000 condo in Thailand.
He was arrested in October of 2013 after being charged with defrauding $4 million dollars from the charitable group over three years as well as conspiring to commit money laundering.
3) The Deniz Feneri charity
The Deniz Feneri charity was a charity that collected donations and gave them directly to Palestinians in severe poverty and Pakistani refugees. In 2008 a German judge found that three executives from the charity were actually redistributing the funds and investing the money in real-estate ventures. It is unclear exactly how much money was redirected away from the charity. 41 million Euros was the allegation made against them which was apparently just spent on investing surreptitiously. That would be more than half of the $56 million the charity collected.
On 2 September 2008 the charities accountant admitted the money was acquired illegally and various private businesses were set up by the donations. The charity directors were sentenced to prison the highest sentence was to Mehmet Gurhan receiving just 5 Years and 10 months. It was also stated that Mehmet Gurhan diverted all the funds into Channel 7 in Turkey.
2) Foundation for New Era Philanthropy (New Era)
John G. Bennett Jr set up New Era in 1989 secretly knowing that it was going to be a Ponzi scheme. In 1989, Bennett invited several friends to become donors in a new organization he was founding. They were told that if they contributed at least $5000 for three months, he would double it. He was able to pay them back like he promised by tapping money from a business he run on the side. Impressed by this they wanted to invest more and he raised the least amount to $25,000. This scheme remained small until the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences asked for £250,000 match and Bennet was able to match this. This then started off a chain reaction which led to many major organisations joining.
When large donors asked for proof that the money was not stolen he would simply show them the government bonds he owned, however the problem with this was that he showed the same bonds to everybody. The Foundation for New Era Philanthropy was receiving praise in the press for giving money to religious organizations and involving high school students in charitable events. This did not last for long because in May 1995 it started to all go downhill from then on. The foundation claimed his had assets of $80 million and liabilities of $551 million, however a close examination of the documents filed in the subsequent lawsuits reveals that more than $354 million passed through New Era’s hands and that Bennett took $8 million of that for himself.
The Ponzi scheme soon ended after having 1,100 donors and many more charities onboard. Bennett faced 82 federal counts of money laundering and wire, mail and bank fraud. He even claimed to be possessed by “Religious fervor” but the judge didn’t allow this. In the end Bennett pleaded no contest to all the charges in March 1997. He should have received 22-27 years in jail,however he only did 12 and is actually out of jail now!
John Donald Cody was a man who stolen an identity under the name “Bobby Thompson”. He set up the fake charity USNVA and quickly gained credibility by claiming he and a few others where ex-military which claimed USNVA had been around since 1927. The website claimed they had 66,000 members which had contributed large donations from non-existent charities. It was put under investigation and was found out to be a literally 1 man run company which was run by an unidentifiable man with no record of a military background. unfortunately this ‘Charity’ had gone on for several years before this was found out and he managed to collect more than $100 million worth of donations.
Thompson’s con extended beyond charity fraud to influencing legislation. He hired a lobbyist to persuade Senator Patsy Ticer to sponsor a Virginia state law exempting certain veterans groups like USNVA from registration that discloses financial activities and other information for public scrutiny. Senator Ticer agreed to sponsor the bill, and by the time she became aware of the serious problems at USNVA it was too late to prevent it from becoming law. Which of course was directly in his favour.
In 2013 he was later captured after being on the run for 2 years .After his arrest authorities found numerous fraudulent ID’s in his possession, as well as a suitcase with $980,000 worth of cash. Thompson later admitted that his real name is John Donald Cody. Mr. Cody has been described as a Harvard-educated lawyer and a former Army intelligence officer. He is currently serving a 28 year-long prison sentence and a $6 million fine.
There you have it 10 Charities That Wasn’t So Charitable. Some of these charities are still being run today successfully. This article is not intended to give the charities that are still in operation today a bad name it has just been done for awareness but it kind of makes you think though if there is anything like this happening now?