Monday, November 14, 2011

Father of Charity Fraud Dies

by Gary Snyder

An early mentor for charity fraud has died. William Aramony, who built United Way of America into one of the nation’s premier charities but was forced out as president and went to prison for six years for misusing funds to support a lavish lifestyle and a teenage mistress. Twenty-two years as chief executive, from 1970 to 1992, donations quadrupled. He strengthened the United Way (and as was example in many ways for other charities), but his legacy will be his criminality. 

In 1992, he resigned when an internal investigation and news reports disclosed his expense-account living and luxury travel, including trans-Atlantic flights on the Concorde. Federal investigators began examining accusations that for years Mr. Aramony had also spent lavishly on a young Florida woman with whom he had begun an affair in 1986, shortly after her high school graduation at 17 years old. He was indicted and accused of stealing $1 million from a United Way corporate spinoff. Some $80,000 was said to have been given to his lover, Lori Villasor. He lavishly spent money on vacation trips with her to London, New York, Egypt and Las Vegas, and for Champagne, flowers and even a fax machine for him to send love notes. He also had an affair with his secretary as well as Ms. Villasor’s older sister. 

In his day charity fraud was considered a rarity in contrast today when it is a daily (hourly?) occurrence. Aramony simply can be considered the father of today’s charity fraudsters.

Nonprofit Imperative gathers its information principally from public documents...some of which are directly quoted. Virtually all cited are in some phase of criminal proceedings; some have not been charged, however. Cites in various media: Featured in print, broadcast, and online media outlets, including: Vermont Public Radio, Miami Herald, National Public Radio, Huffington Post, The Sun News, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Wall Street Journal (Profile, News and Photos), FOX2, ABC Spotlight on the News, WWJ Radio, Ethics World, Aspen Philanthropy Newsletter, Harvard Business Review, Current Affairs, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, St. Petersburg Times, B, USA Today Topics, ,, Responsive Philanthropy Magazine, New York Times...and many more • Nonprofits: On the Brink (iUniverse, 2006)
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