New York Attorney General Letitia James today delivered more than $640,000 to five nonprofit organizations that are leading the fight against breast cancer. The funds were recovered by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) from organizations and individuals who defrauded New Yorkers into making donations that went into the pockets of telemarketers. The OAG recovered the funds from the Breast Cancer Survivors Foundation, Inc. (BCSF), a sham organization, and Garrett Morgan, a telemarketer who misled donors into contributing to a sham breast cancer organization on Long Island. The $644,054.79 in restitution was distributed to the American Cancer Society, Living Beyond Breast Cancer, West Islip Breast Cancer Coalition, Babylon Breast Cancer Coalition, and Manhasset Women’s Coalition Against Breast Cancer.
“It is unconscionable that organizations and telemarketers preyed on the public’s generosity and deprived breast cancer patients of vital support during a time of tremendous physical, mental, and emotional distress,” said Attorney General James. “Today, I am honored to return these funds to the people and organizations that need them most. My office is proud to be a partner to these five incredible organizations and help them in supporting breast cancer patients and survivors throughout their journey.”
In 2017, OAG announced an agreement with BCSF and its president and founder. The BCSF posed in phone and mail solicitations as a medical center for breast cancer patients, when in reality it was a shell organization funneling donations to an outside fundraiser, which pocketed 92 cents of every dollar donated to BCSF. The OAG’s agreement required BCSF to shut down immediately and pay more than $300,000 in restitution, the last of which was received by OAG in 2021. The OAG also obtained $40,000 from BCSF’s auditors, McEnerney, Brady & Company, LLC and Edmund Brady.
In 2013, OAG won a judgment against Garrett Morgan for fraud in raising funds for the Coalition Against Breast Cancer, a sham Long Island organization. The organization raised millions of dollars with solicitations that claimed there was a “mammography fund,” when there was none, and that donations would provide free mammograms to uninsured women. Morgan did not pay the judgment and, acting on a motion by OAG, the court appointed a receiver to collect or sell Morgan’s property to satisfy the judgment. In 2021, the receiver delivered $303,747.86 to OAG.
The OAG’s Charities Bureau selected five nonprofit organizations to receive the restitution funds, including:
The American Cancer Society ($314,054.79): The American Cancer Society will use the award to support an initiative that increases breast cancer screening in high poverty areas, including screening among women who have never been screened before or who are not up to date with screening. The initiative focuses on uninsured and underinsured women by partnering with community health centers. With funds from OAG, the American Cancer Society will launch a new cohort of community health centers to participate in the mammogram initiative.
“The American Cancer Society is committed to expanding access to care for all and removing barriers that prevent cancer patients from getting the care and treatment they need,” said Dr. Karen Knudsen, CEO, American Cancer Society. “The pandemic brought about dramatic declines in breast cancer screenings. We are grateful that funds from the New York Attorney General’s Office will expand our lifesaving initiative to increase cancer screening rates and ultimately save lives.”
Living Beyond Breast Cancer ($225,000): Living Beyond Breast Cancer, a national nonprofit organization, will use the award to support its Living Beyond Breast Cancer Fund, which provides one-time grants to help those on limited incomes manage the financial burden of breast cancer. Grants range from $500 to $1,000 and are for living expenses. Grants are paid directly to vendors or billers. Recipients of the one-time grants must be in active treatment for breast cancer or living with metastatic breast cancer, and have a household income under 400 percent of the U.S. federal poverty line.
“We are honored to have been selected by the New York Attorney General’s Office,” said Jean Sachs, CEO, Living Beyond Breast Cancer. “Living Beyond Breast Cancer was founded over 30 years ago to offer trusted information and a community of support for all people directly impacted by breast cancer. We annually serve over 600,000 people across the country. A critical program of ours is the Living Beyond Breast Cancer Fund, a financial assistance program that pays the bills for women in treatment for basic needs such as rent, utilities, and transportation. Since 2006, we have been able to disburse over 3,150 grants for an approximate total of $2,530,000 to women and their families. Since the pandemic began, we have doubled the number of grants available to give to recipients as a way to alleviate financial hardship faced by so many across the country. The funds provided by the New York Attorney General’s Office will allow us to continue this intensive support, and help women in treatment focus on their health and not on their bills.”
West Islip Breast Cancer Coalition on Long Island ($30,000): West Islip Breast Cancer Coalition of Long Island, Inc., will use the award to provide patients undergoing breast cancer treatment with services such as transportation, meals, childcare, house cleaning, wigs, advice, and support from former cancer patients.
“The West Islip Breast Cancer Coalition for Long Island, Inc. is extremely grateful to the Attorney General’s Office and its commitment to overseeing that funds raised to help women with breast cancer go to legitimate organizations that provide services to the many women on Long Island going through chemotherapy and radiation,” said Margaret Campise, president, West Islip Breast Cancer Coalition. “This award will ensure that many Long Island women will be taken care of through our ‘Lend A Helping Hand’ program, which offers free services like house cleaning, transportation to treatments, co-payments, wigs, prosthesis, and post-operative care. On behalf of the many women going through breast cancer, and the West Islip Breast Cancer Coalition for Long Island, I want to thank the Attorney General’s Office.”
Babylon Breast Cancer Coalition ($35,000): Babylon Breast Cancer Coalition, Inc., will use the award to provide an array of services to patients undergoing treatment for breast cancer and gynecological cancers, including transportation to medical appointments, housekeeping, meals, and childcare as needed during treatment.
“About 1 in 8 U.S. women (13 percent) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of a lifetime and when that happens a woman’s life, and the lives of those who love her, are thrown into turmoil as she undergoes a horrific treatment ordeal,” said Nick Radesca, volunteer & vice president of finance, Babylon Breast Cancer Coalition. “Because most people’s lives have been impacted by this disease, many willingly donate to breast cancer charities. I want to thank the New York State Attorney General’s Office for bringing unscrupulous individuals to justice and redistributing defrauded donors’ funds to legitimate organizations. Babylon Breast Cancer Coalition, Inc. will use its share to provide free support services such as transportation to and from medical appointments, housecleaning, financial assistance, childcare, meal preparation, and other needed services.”
Manhasset Women’s Coalition Against Breast Cancer ($40,000): Manhasset Women’s Coalition Against Breast Cancer, Inc., will use the award to support its outreach program, which provides services to patients in the form of transportation, childcare, house cleaning, wigs, and non-financial support including advice and general emotional support of other former patients.
“The Manhasset Women’s Coalition Against Breast Cancer congratulates the Office of the New York Attorney General’s Charities Bureau for their efforts in pursuing the shutdown of the Coalition Against Breast Cancer and the Breast Cancer Survivor’s Foundation, both fraudulent organizations,” said Lynn Minutillo, member of board of directors, Manhasset Women’s Coalition Against Breast Cancer. “The MWCABC is so very grateful to be designated as a recipient of funds secured in the settlements of these cases. The women with breast cancer with whom we engage will be better served financially, emotionally, and educationally. Be assured we will strive to be conscientious stewards of the funds entrusted to us.”
The recovered funds distributed today are part of OAG’s Operation Bottomfeeder, which is an initiative of the Charities Bureau to identify fraudulent charities and their fundraisers. This is done through an analysis of annual financial reports, fundraising contracts, and other documents that nonprofit corporations file with the Charities Bureau, and has allowed OAG to take appropriate enforcement action against those engaging in fraud. In 2020, as a part of Operation Bottomfeeder, Attorney General James announced a multi-agency agreement imposing a nationwide, permanent, ban on Outreach Calling, a for-profit fundraiser, from charitable fundraising. To date, Operation Bottomfeeder has recovered approximately $1.7 million from sham charities and their fundraisers and has redistributed that money to legitimate charities.
This matter was handled by Enforcement Section Co-Chief Yael Fuchs and Assistant Attorneys General Peggy Farber, William Wang, and Sharon Sash under the supervision of Charities Bureau Chief James Sheehan and Deputy Bureau Chief Karin Kunstler-Goldman. The Charities Bureau is a part of the Division for Social Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.