Local Charity Out Of Business After Theft Of $50,000

By Craig Hoffman

(LOUISVILLE, April 13th, 2004, 6 p.m.) -- A local charity is closing its doors after someone made off with $50,000 in donations. The Louisville Police Officers Children's Fund has helped kids for nearly two decades. As WAVE 3's Craig Hoffman tells us, the charity has no plans to ever operate again.

Only a week ago, telemarketers were manning phones, seeking donations for the Louisville Police Officers Children's Fund. But now it's offices are shut down.

John Defriend says the thieves have put a stop to a charity that's been around for nearly two decades. "This operation has been in continuos existence for 18 years, sending kids to campground in summer, providing a Christmas party and Christmas presents."

In 1994, WAVE 3 featured Camp Ski Hi, which was then operated by Blue Horizon. It now solicits money using the Louisville Police Officers Children's Fund's name. At its peak, it had 32 employees. Now Defriend says someone has stole just about all its money -- and he says it looks like an inside job.

"We have an internal investigation going on, we're not sure who, or what or how much."

Defriend says the charity had to quit giving money to disadvantaged and crippled children January 1st. It still hasn't paid all laid off workers, but Defriend says he hopes donations still coming in will take care of that.

Defriend says a professional fundraiser was running things and charity officials failed keep close tabs on him. Charles Mattingly with The Better Business Bureau says complaints come in about professional fundraisers ripping off charitable groups 5 to 10 times a year."

"So the Board of Directors has a responsibility and duty -- not only to the organization -- but all the donors who give their money, so an active and involved board, is the real key to running an organization the way it should be run."

Sometime in the next six weeks the Louisville Police Officers Children's Fund will turn its findings over to metro police and the Attorney General's office.

The Louisville Police Officers Children's Fund is not affiliated with the Louisville Metro Police.

Online Reporter: Craig Hoffman

Online Producer: Michael Dever