Cancer organizations, authorities call charity scam ‘reprehensible’

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 19, 2015)-- It's being called a "reprehensible" scam involving charities taking your money - claiming it's to help fight cancer. But instead, authorities say they took the money and used it for their own good.

And now it’s lead to a nationwide lawsuit against four supposed charities, involving law enforcement from every single state, including Indiana.

The four charities targeted in this investigation include: the Cancer Fund Of America, Cancer Support Services, Children's Cancer Fund Of America and The Breast Cancer Society.

And while the names may sound legitimate, officials say they're not in the least.

Donors' money went to the personal lifestyles of those operating the charities, including cars, luxury cruises and tickets to sporting events,” said Virginia attorney general Mark Herring.

“I think to use that as part of a scam is pretty reprehensible, and again I hope our actions today will at least raise awareness and have people look for the legitimate charities that are doing really good work to benefit cancer patients,” said Indiana attorney general Greg Zoeller.

Officials with legitimate organizations say this case shows how important it is to do your research.

“We’re very transparent about when you donate you can look on our web site and see exactly where that money goes,” said Natalie Sutton, executive director with Susan G. Komen of Central Indiana. “Don’t be afraid to contribute to charity, just do your research when you do.”

For the president of the local Better Business Bureau, scams like these are very personal.

“That’s devastating to that person that who gives that money,” said BBB president Tim Maniscalo. “My mother died from cancer (and) we give money. It’s just really devastating when you give money and it’s not going to what you think it should be going for.”

According to the attorney general’s office, two of the charities and five defendants have agreed to a $137 million settlement.  Among the terms of the settlement are that the Children’s Cancer Fund and Breast Cancer Society will be dissolved.

The Breast Cancer Society posted a statement on its web site Tuesday, which reads in part:

Charities – including some of the world’s best-known and reputable organizations – are increasingly facing the scrutiny of government regulators in the U.S. The Breast Cancer Society (TBCS) is no exception. Unfortunately, as our operations expanded – all with the goal of serving more patients – the threat of litigation from our government increased as well.

While the organization, its officers and directors have not been found guilty of any allegations of wrong doing, and the government has not proven otherwise, 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.

I have loved leading TBCS and being part of a team that engaged heart and soul in helping to serve the mission of the charity selflessly, tirelessly, and honorably.

On behalf of TBCS, I want to thank you for allowing us to be a part of your lives. It is my hope that you will continue to find the resources and assistance you need through the soon-to-be revamped Hope Supply Program.

Giving back to the community is a mission that drives me. You will forever and always been in our hearts.

The Federal Trade Commission also posted more information about the allegations on its web site, FTC.gov