Thursday, August 18, 2011
Great Neck Couple Admits Pocketing $500K from Fake Charity
GARDEN CITY, N.Y. — A New York couple spent more than $500,000 they raised for a bogus breast cancer charity on dinners at fancy steakhouses, vacations, retail stores and other personal expenses, including their daughter's sorority dues, the state attorney general said.
David Winston of Great Neck pleaded guilty Tuesday in a Nassau County courtroom to grand larceny and scheming to defraud. Under a plea deal, he faces up to six years in prison. His wife, Mindy Winston, admitted falsifying business records, specifically creating a bank account for the sham charity, and will receive probation, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement.
"The Winstons supported a lavish lifestyle by using the hard-earned money donors gave to fight breast cancer," Schneiderman said. "My office has no tolerance for this kind of exploitation."
The couple also faces a civil lawsuit that should be settled shortly, said attorney Joseph Conway, who represents Mindy Winston. "She will work very diligently to make restitution," Conway said, noting his client was extremely remorseful.
Ed Mandery, who represents David Winston, said his client "started off with the best of intentions. Things did not go as planned. He is extremely remorseful about the mistakes he has made."
Prosecutors said the Coalition for Breast Cancer Cures, Inc., and a for-profit fundraising arm, The Resource Center, never registered with the attorney general's office, mailed phony invoices to dupe donors, and repeatedly charged donors' credit cards without authorization.
In an unrelated but similar case, Schneiderman filed a lawsuit in June against what he said was a sham breast cancer charity on Long Island that fraudulently raised $9.1 million over five years while spending more than 95 percent of the money on itself.
That lawsuit claims the Coalition Against Breast Cancer and its for-profit fundraiser, Campaign Center, violated state not-for-profit and charitable solicitations laws, making false claims about activities and services.