Friday, August 30, 2013

Investigative Reporting on Charity Fraud At Its Finest

by Gary Snyder

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and investigative reporter Christopher Quinn and others did fantastic work in exposing the problems at Angel Food Ministries. I was honored to have a small part in the expose.

Chris informs me that finally, after many years, the closing chapter is at hand. 

Three members of the family that founded Angel Food Ministries, dedicated to feeding the hungry, were sentenced in federal court Thursday for using the nonprofit to enrich themselves.

Joseph and Linda Wingo, the founders of Angel Food Ministries, and son Andy, had pleaded guilty last February after an investigation that began in 2009.

The U.S. Attorney Michael Moore said, “Pure and simple, this case is about greed….The Wingos filled their garage with a classic automobile, their hangar with a private plane, and their pockets with cash.”

Pastor Joe Wingo drew a 7-year sentence and was ordered to forfeit $1.5 million and pay a $15,000 fine for conspiracy to commit money laundering. Andy Wingo got 7 years in prison and was ordered to forfeit $2.4 million for conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Linda Wingo got 5 years probation and ordered to pay a $25,000 fine for concealing the commission of a crime.

This unveiling of the truth is just one example of hard-working investigative reporters keeping charities honest. But, as most know, investigative reporters are a dying breed with newspapers going out of business or cutting budgets to the bone. Investigative reporting is an expensive business.

An example of the expensive nature of investigative reporting and getting the facts right, I am reminded of a television station in Detroit touting the merits of Angel Food Ministries. I spoke to the reporter and sent them over some of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution work noting that the agency was a fraud. They assured me that the station manager would be in touch with me. No return call and certainly no retraction. I subsequently shared with them the fact the Angel Food Ministries principals were indicted. Again, no response.

Getting it right takes too much time and money. 

Kudos to all those that worked so hard in putting the perpetrators in prison. If it weren't for them, the federal government would not have been embarrassed and not used all of its resources to prosecute.  As is frequently the case, they would have simply passed on this agency.




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: Charity Navigator, Vermont Public Radio, Miami Herald, National Public Radio (NPR), Huffington Post, The Sun News, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Wall Street Journal (Profile, News and Photos), “Betrayal”, (a movie), NBC (on Charity Fraud…TBD), FOX2, ABC Spotlight on the News, WWJ Radio, Marie Claire, Ethics World, Aspen Philanthropy Newsletter, Harvard Business Review, Current Affairs, Charity Navigator, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, St. Petersburg Times, Board Room Insider, USA Today Topics, Accountants News, Newsweek.com, Responsive Philanthropy Magazine, New York Times, Portfolio Magazine, The Virgin Islands Daily News, NANKAI (China) BUSINESS REVIEW, National Religious Broadcasters newsletter, The Charity Governance Blog, American Chronicle, Palm Beach Post, Detroit Free Press, Oakland Press, Nonprofit World, Socially Responsible Business Forum, PNNOnline, Ohio Nonprofit Resources, Nonprofit Good Practice Guide, Nonprofit Startup Guide, Nonprofit Blog, National Coalition of Homeless Newsletter, Finance and Administration Roundtable Newsletter, MichiganNonprofit.com, CORP! Magazine, Crain’s Michigan Nonprofit, ncrp.org, PhilanTopic, Nashville Free Press, Nonprofit Law Blog, Seniors World Chronicle, Carnegie Reporter, Assoc. of Certified Fraud Examiners Examiner, msnbc.com, Worchester (MA) Telegram and Gazette, Carnegie Corporation of America, EO Tax Journal, Wikipedia: Non-profit Organizations; Parent: Wise Austin, Accountants News, Veterans Today, Answers.com, Far-roundtable, #Nonprofit Report, nonprofithelpnews, nonprofit news; National Enquirer, Northwest Herald, The HelpWise Daily, The #Nonprofit Report, Wikipedia (Nonprofit Organization), Answers.com, Nonprofits: On the Brink (2006) Silence: The Impending Threat to the Charitable Sector (2011)
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