Federal Trade Commission files complaint against four cancer charities alleging $187 million fraud

The Federal Trade Commission filed a 148 page complaint against four cancer charities yesterday accusing them of diverting $187 million contributed by donors to the founders of the charities and their family members to pay for vitally necessary personal items, such as cars and luxury cruises. Charitable contributions also were diverted for all-expense paid trips to Disney World for members of the boards of directors of the four charities.

The LA Times reports,

The pitch was simple, and played on the images of a devastating disease to tug on heartstrings and open pocketbooks.

One of the websites featured pictures of smiling children, some of them in hospital beds, one in a tutu and a scarf covering her bare head.

The money, people were told, would go directly to helping women and children sick with cancer, paying for wigs, pain medications, and transportation to chemotherapy appointments.

All of those claims were “outright lies,” . . .

The founder of the four charities is James Reynolds, Sr.

According to the complaint, the donations were solicited from people in all 50 states and the District of Columbia by mail and telephone calls during the period 2008 through 2012. Less than 3% of the donations went to cancer patients.  From the LA Times,

Meanwhile, the little “support” the charities actually provided to cancer patients came in the form of “cancer boxes” of “seemingly random items,” the complaint says.

The packages, packed by volunteers and sent to cancer patients, included sample-size soaps and shampoos, small amounts of Carnation Instant Breakfast drink, adult briefs and bed pads, disposable plates, iPod covers, batteries, blank greeting cards, and Little Debbie snack cakes, according to the complaint.

The Little Debbie cakes were provided, Reynolds Sr. said, because “they make people happy,” according to the complaint. At one point, the charities switched to purchasing Moon Pies instead, because Reynolds said they “make you happier.”

The four corporations are:

1) Cancer Fund of America,

2) Cancer Support Services,

3) Children’s Cancer Fund of America and the

4) Breast Cancer Society.

According to the complaint,  the four corporations are registered with the IRS as nonprofit organizations with tax-exempt status.

I hope none of our readers donated any money to these ‘charities.’


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Frederick Leatherman

Frederick Leatherman

I am a former law professor and felony criminal defense lawyer who practiced in state and federal courts for 30 years specializing in death penalty cases, forensics, and drug cases.

I taught criminal law, criminal procedure, law and forensics, and trial advocacy for three years after retiring from my law practice.

I also co-founded Innocence Project Northwest (IPNW) at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle and recruited 40 lawyers who agreed to work pro bono, assisted by law students, representing 17 innocent men and women wrongfully convicted of sexually abusing their children in the notorious Wenatchee Sex Ring witch-hunt prosecutions during the mid 90s. All 17 were freed from imprisonment.


  1. Molly
    May 20, 2015 at 7:10 pm

    Wow. I also hope not. The only one that sounds vaguely familiar is the Breast Cancer Society, and I’m not sure that isn’t just similar to other breast cancer charities I’ve heard about. This is sickening.

  2. Ronald Pires
    May 21, 2015 at 11:59 am

    I wonder how much would have been enough?
    Even down in the ghetto, they know that anyone can get away with robbery. But that’s not what people do. We rob over and over and over; it seems so easy, until one day, perhaps merely thru serendipity, we get caught.
    $200 million? $250 million? I wonder how much.