A complaint by the Federal Trade Commission complaint has brought to light a group of bogus cancer charities run by a family in Tennessee. James Reynolds, Sr. and his family collected over $187 million over a 25-year period. Most of the money was spent on things like cars, gym memberships, luxury cruises, and college tuition. Family members were put on the payroll at six-figure salaries. This is one of the largest charity fraud cases ever, involving all fifty states.
The charities involved are the Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services, the Children’s Cancer Fund of America, and the Breast Cancer Society. The charities falsely reported that the funds they collected were used for financial aid and other support for cancer patients, including pain medication and hospice care. However, according to the FTC, very little of the money ever made it to cancer patients.
The New York Times reports that the charities used the funds to pay for subscriptions to dating websites, meals at Hooters and purchases at Victoria’s Secret, among other things. The FTC has published a list of things potential donors should look for to avoid giving to bogus charities.
However, the FTC action won’t do much to help donors. Under the settlement between the FTC and the people running the charities—the Reynolds family and a long-time associate, Kyle Effler—virtually none of the money will be returned because it has already been spent. The only relief is that the “charities” in question have been closed, and the principals have been banned from further fund-raising.
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