Bronson Takes Action Against Charity For Filing False Reports

TALLAHASSEE, FL- Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H.
Bronson today took legal action against an Atlanta-based charity for allegedly
inflating the worth of donated toys and other goods it provided to 21 Florida
organizations that care for seriously ill children. A lawsuit filed by Bronson’s
office charges that Children’s Wish Foundation International, which collects
toys, books, craft items and clothing from businesses, reported donating more
than four times the value of goods to Ronald McDonald Houses and hospitals
throughout Florida than it actually provided.

The lawsuit claims that the organization reported providing $415,000 in goods
for children at those facilities when, in fact, the items were valued at less
than $86,000. Moreover, nine of the 21 organizations reported by Children’s Wish
Foundation International on its financial documents filed with Bronson’s office
as recipients of its donations reported receiving no donations from the charity,
court papers claim. “The charges we are filing here are particularly damaging,”
Bronson said, “because they prey on the generosity of the public and, when
uncovered, make the public perhaps a little more skeptical and less willing to
give the next time someone asks.”

The legal action seeks civil penalties of up to $10,000 for each violation
listed in court papers, as well as other equitable relief. Among the
organizations allegedly shortchanged by the charity were Ronald McDonald Houses
in Miami, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Orlando, St. Petersburg, Tampa and
Pensacola. Other facilities include Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, the Joe
DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Fort Lauderdale and Tampa General Hospital.
Bronson said today’s action underscores the importance of checking out a charity
before consumers make charitable contributions to them.

He is encouraging anyone who is considering making a contribution to call his
department’s toll-free helpline - 1 800 HELP FLA (435-7352) - to make sure a
charity is registered and to check its complaint history. The same number can
also be used to get a complaint form to file a complaint against a charity.


© 2002 South Dade Monitor, Inc.