Herring settles suit against two sham charities

mark herringAttorney General Mark R. Herring along with the Federal Trade Commission and law enforcement agencies from all 50 states and the District of Columbia have reached a settlement that will dissolve two nationwide sham cancer charities and ban their president from profiting from any charity fundraising in the future.

Attorney General Herring and collaborating agencies and states previously settled allegations against two related charities when the suit was filed in May 2015. This latest settlement concludes the largest joint enforcement action ever undertaken by the FTC and state charity regulators.

In addition to the charities and operators that previously settled, Cancer Fund of America, Inc. (CFA), Cancer Support Services, Inc. (CSS), and their leader, James Reynolds, Sr., have agreed to settle charges that while CFA and CSS claimed to help cancer patients, they instead spent the overwhelming majority of donations on their operators, families and friends, and fundraisers.

The agencies’ complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona in May 2015, targeted four sham charities run by Reynolds and his family members that allegedly bilked more than $187 million from donors.  CFA and CSS were responsible for more than $75 million of that amount.

Under the settlement, which must be approved by the Court, CFA and CSS will be permanently closed and their assets liquidated.  Reynolds is banned from profiting from charity fundraising and nonprofit work, and from serving as a charity’s director or trustee or otherwise managing charitable assets.  He is also prohibited from making misrepresentations about goods or services, and violating the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule and state laws.

“I am very pleased that we were able to shut down these fraudulent operations and ban these bad actors from charitable fundraising for life,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “These sham charities took advantage of generous donors and diverted money that should have gone to legitimate charities and people suffering with cancer.  Our unprecedented joint action should send a strong message that we will not tolerate those who prey on kindness and victimize people in need.”

The proposed order imposes a judgment against CFA, CSS, and Reynolds, jointly and severally, of $75,825,653, the amount donors gave to CFA and CSS between 2008 and 2012.  The judgment against CFA and CSS will be partially satisfied by liquidating their assets.  The judgment against Reynolds will be suspended upon surrender of certain artwork, two pistols, and sale of a pontoon boat.  The full judgment will become due immediately if he is found to have misrepresented his financial condition.

The other defendants in the case were CFA’s and CSS’s chief financial officer and CSS’s former president, Kyle Effler; Children’s Cancer Fund of America, Inc. (CCFOA) and its president and executive director, Rose Perkins; and The Breast Cancer Society, Inc. (BCS) and its executive director and former president, James Reynolds II.  Under prior settlement orders, Effler, Perkins, and Reynolds II were banned from fundraising, charity management, and oversight of charitable assets, and CCFOA and BCS are in receivership and will be dissolved after their assets are liquidated.

Stipulated settlement orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the U.S. District Court judge.

Before giving to a charity, remember these tips:

  • Give to charities you know and trust
  • Watch out for groups with names that sound like other well-known, reputable charities
  • Don’t give to someone pressuring you to make a quick donation or requiring that you give cash or wire money
  • Ask for detailed information about programs and services in writing
  • Find out how much of your donation will go to the charity’s programs and services
  • Check if the charity and its fundraiser are registered with the Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs in the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services – (804) 786-1343vdacs.virginia.gov/food-charitable-solicitation.shtml

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