Federal investigators say that a Tennessee man and his family raised millions of dollars for cancer patients, then spent the money on cars, luxury cruises, college tuition and to employ family members with six-figure salaries.
Officials say it's one of the largest charity fraud cases ever and involves all 50 states.
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden says Idaho took part in the federal lawsuit against the four phony cancer charities. Wasden says they allegedly scammed more than $187 million. He says Children’s Cancer Fund of America, Inc. and The Breast Cancer Society of America, can no longer solicit donations. Litigation is currently pending against two other charities, Cancer Fund of America, Inc. and Cancer Support Services, Inc.
“Many Idahoans gave their hard-earned money to these sham charities in the hope of helping people with cancer,” Wasden says. “The reality is most of the money was used for the benefit of the individuals and their families for their own personal interest and not to help people with cancer.”
Wasden says Idahoans made more than 5,100 donations to the Children’s Cancer Fund of America between 2008 and 2012. They gave the fund more than $134,000. Idaho residents also made over 16,000 donations to the Breast Cancer Society, totaling more than $322,000.
The lawsuit says the charities used telemarketing calls, direct mail, and websites in their schemes. The charities claimed they provided patients with pain medication, transportation to chemotherapy, and hospice care. The lawsuit says these claims were lies.
“Money was really used by the organizations for lucrative employment for family members and friends, and on cars, trips, luxury cruises, college tuition, gym memberships, jet ski outings, sporting events and concert tickets, and dating site memberships,” said Wasden.
In an online statement, The Breast Cancer Society denied any wrongdoing, but said it was suspending operations because the investigation was a distraction. The other groups didn't respond to requests for comment.
The settlements require that Children’s Cancer Fund and Breast Cancer Society be dissolved. Their assets will be liquidated and some of those involved with the charities are banned from fundraising and operating charities.
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