Four cancer charities operated by the same family under a scamming scheme were sued by the Federal Trade Commission and attorneys general in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The group allegedly scammed consumers out of more than $187 million, who in good faith wanted to contribute to a good cause. In some cases, the charities asked people for money that would eventually help children with cancer, one of the most vulnerable groups. Instead, only 3% of the money the group raised actually went to charitable causes. The rest was pocketed.
The four charities in question are: Cancer Fund of America, Children’s Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services and the Breast Cancer Society. These came under the attention of the Federal Trade Commission after a joint report from the Tampa Bay Times and the Center for Investigative Reporting listed them in 2013 under “America’s Worst Charities”.
“The defendants’ egregious scheme effectively deprived legitimate cancer charities and cancer patients of much-needed funds and support,” Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. “The defendants took in millions of dollars in donations meant to help cancer patients, but spent it on themselves and their fundraisers.”
All four charities are run by members of the same family or their close business associates. The whole scheme seems to be led by a fellow named James Reynolds Sr. Three of the groups’ executives—Rose Perkins, president and director of the Children’s Cancer Fund of America, James Reynolds II, executive director and former president of the Breast Cancer Society and Kyle Effler, chief financial officer of Cancer Fund of America and Cancer Support Services and former president of Cancer Support Services—have also agreed to settle charges against them. The people in question will be banned from fundraising or oversight of charitable activities, in addition to directing $137 million to cancer patients. This is something that they should have done in the first place, so to me they gone off much too lightly! The other two so-called charities, Cancer Fund of America Inc., Cancer Support Services Inc., will be prosecuted, along with president, James Reynolds Sr.
Following the lawsuit, the charities disconnected their listed phone numbers. The Breast Cancer Society’s website (breastcancersociety.org/) has been replaced with a letter from executive director James T. Reynolds II to supporters.
“While the organization, its officers and directors have not been found guilty of any allegations of wrongdoing, and the government has not proven otherwise,” he said in the letter, “our board of directors has decided that it does not help those who we seek to serve, and those who remain in need, for us to engage in a highly publicized, expensive, and distracting legal battle around our fundraising practices.”
Is “[…]it does not help those who we seek to serve” an euphemism for “we got busted for scamming”? What a load of rubbish.
Prosecutors claim that between 2008 to 2012, 85 percent of the more than $187 million the four groups raised went to professional fundraisers. Only 3 percent actually went to charitable purposes, while the rest were used by the charities for lofty salaries for themselves, cruises, jet ski outings, concert tickets and even dating site memberships.
It’s superfluous to remind you how despicable this sort of scheme is. It’s cancer for crying out loud! As if scamming people out of money wasn’t enough, they actually scammed people out of life too. Worse off, these sort of stories discourage people from giving to charity anymore. Americans gave $335.17 billion to charity in 2013, according to the Giving USA 2014 report. Only a small fraction of these have been actually diverted to perverted causes. Speaking for CNBC, Patrick Rooney, associate dean for research and academic affairs at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “It’s a very small percentage of the total charities, but it is something we have to be aware of,” he said.
So, how can you be sure which charity to support? Well, one obvious NO,NO is to fund charities that use telemarketers to cold call and emotionally manipulate you. If a telemarketer calls… just hang up. Basically, any kind of funding will require a bit of due diligence on your part. Use CharityWatch.org to search and review charities. CharityWatch.org rates the Breast Cancer Research Foundation an A+, but the Breast Cancer Relief Foundation an F. (All four of the groups named in the lawsuit got an F rating on CharityWatch.org.)