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Analysis: Nonprofits lost millions in assets to fraud, embezzlement

Oct. 27, 2013 at 11:13 AM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27 (UPI) -- More than 1,000 U.S. nonprofit organizations have had a major diversion of funds from unauthorized uses of revenue, a Washington Post analysis has found.

In just 10 of the largest losses, losses to nonprofits and their affiliates potentially totaled in excess of $500 million, the Post reported Saturday.

The analysis was based on a searchable database of nonprofits assembled by the Post with the assistance of GuideStar, an organization that collects and publicizes federal filings by nonprofits.

Organizations are only required to report diversions of more than $250,000 or those that exceed 5 percent of their annual gross receipts or total assets. While federal regulations required the organizations to explain the losses, the Post found many of them don't go into detail about how the diversions occurred.

The American Legacy Foundation, which funds health research from money from a settlement with tobacco companies, reported in 2011 it had "become aware" of a diversion "in excess of $250,000" allegedly committed by a former employee. The full loss was later estimated at $3.4 million.

Foundation officials did not disclose in the filing why they waited three years to call in investigators.

Diversions reported by other nonprofits have been significantly greater. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria said in 2010 that $43 million in grant funds had been misused or spent in unsubstantiated ways. Some $42 million in funds donated to the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany was lost in a decade-long conspiracy by swindlers who created false identities, the nonprofit reported in 2010. The estimated amount of the fraud was later raised to $60 million.

In 2009 alone, 285 diversions totaling $170 million were disclosed, the Internal Revenue Service says.

A study by Boston-based security firm Marquet International in 2012 concluded that one-sixth of all major embezzlements occurred in nonprofits and religious organizations. Only the financial services sector accounted for more.

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