AG recovers $500K donated by Washingtonians to bankrupt sham charity

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Department of Health will use money to pay for breast cancer screenings for underinsured women, as donors originally intended

OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson joined Washington Secretary of Health John Wiesman today to announce that more than half a million dollars from the recovered assets of a bankrupt sham charity will fund breast cancer screenings for underinsured women, as donors originally intended.

The Attorney General’s Office opened an investigation into the Breast Cancer Prevention Fund (BCPF) in 2011 after receiving nine complaints that the organization was misleading donors.

BCPF led donors to believe it would use the vast majority of their donations to provide mammograms for uninsured and underinsured women. Instead, BCPF paid about 80 percent of the money raised to a telemarketing firm owned by the president of the charity’s board.

He pocketed nearly half of that money.

The Breast Cancer Prevention Fund declared bankruptcy during the Attorney General’s investigation.

The more than $500,000 announced today is Washington’s share of about a $1.6 million distribution from a settlement approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle. The states of California and Texas, where the charity also garnered a significant amount of its donations, will split the remainder.

Additional funds for screenings may be sent to the states in the future.

“We all benefit when every woman has access to free breast cancer screenings,” said Ferguson. “This sham charity took advantage of Washingtonians who thought they were providing potentially life-saving screenings for women in need. This money will help fulfill that broken promise.”

“This settlement will allow us to provide access to more women seeking services that prevent and diagnose cancer,” Wiesman said. “Helping women get screened for breast and cervical cancer is a critical step in fighting this disease.”

In an August 2017 ruling, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Marc Barreca noted that while the Breast Cancer Prevention Fund claimed “87 to 93 percent” of donations went toward the charity’s cancer screening programs, in reality, more than $18.6 million — 80 percent — of the $22 million the charity raised went to a telemarketing company owned by the charity’s board president, James Paton. In turn, nearly $8.5 million of the total funds raised went directly to Paton himself, the court noted.

Thousands of Washingtonians donated to the charity.

The Attorney General’s Office filed a claim with the bankruptcy court to recoup at least some of the donations given to the charity.

In Washington, the Department of Health will use the funds to reimburse providers statewide for breast cancer screening and diagnostic services delivered to uninsured and underinsured clients enrolled with the department’s Breast, Cervical & Colon Health Program. Six regional prime contractors administer the program. They enroll and assist clients in accessing services and reimburse providers for client services. These prime contractors are Public Health Seattle & King County, Citrine Health, Peace Health Southwest Medical Center, Spokane Regional Health District, Confluence Health and the Yakima Health District. 

More information about the department’s Breast, Cervical & Colon Health Program is available here.

Assistant Attorneys General Tad Robinson O’Neill and Lynda Atkins handled the case for the Washington.

If you believe you are a victim of a scam, file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office.

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The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.

Contacts:

Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; [email protected]