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Sticky Fingers Steal From North Carolina Nonprofits

6:57 PM, Nov 5, 2013   |    comments
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GREENSBORO, N.C. - It's your hard-earned money, so when you give it willingly to a non-profit group you want to know they'll use it wisely. But what happens on the other side? 2 Wants To Know found some rare cases where that money goes missing or is stolen.

All of these organizations set out to do good work.  And the vast amount of the time - they do. But even those groups with the best intentions can get the rare person with sticky fingers. These thefts are often inside jobs... and don't happen every day. According to the group Foundation Center, more than 12,000 North Carolina non-profits file tax forms with the IRS every year.

Westchester Manor in High Point is run by PPRC Nursing Home. The non-profit reports an employee wrote $10,000 worth of checks to himself from the organization's money. PPRC has not returned our requests for comment, but the news shocked several patients and family members  - like Mary Jackson who's going in to visit her mother.

"I think it's terrible because these people are here to help the aged, help people who can't help themselves," Jackson said.

Then there's the Pi Kappa Phi  Fraternity.  The local alumni group, The Kappa Council, also reported missing money - $26,000. The group declined an interview. But in its tax form the group says the former member no longer has access to the organization's bank accounts. And the alumni group has strengthened its financial review process.

These are two of 15 North Carolina non-profits to deal with missing money.  How much missing money?  More than half a million dollars total since 2008.

The largest theft happened at the Matthews Playhouse of Performing Arts.  According to IRS documents, former employe entered a plea deal for taking more than $300,000 over several years.

Jack Siegel is a Chicago based tax attorney for non-profits. He was one of the first to suggest the IRS add the theft disclosure section called a schedule O onto its annual filings. Siegel says you need to know about internal fraud because it might signify a poorly run organization.

"If you're a donor, you always have the option of picking up the phone and calling and saying before I give you money I want to know what happened," Siegel said.

Siegel cautions even the best groups can fall victim once. Let's compare this to the business world - according to the association of certified fraud examiners, the typical corporation loses five percent of its revenues every year to fraud. On average - that's about what we found with the Triad nonprofit groups that lost money.

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