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Site tracks veterans groups' money issues

Nov. 6, 2013 - 10:21AM   |  
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Some veterans groups have trouble keeping track of their money.

More than 30 national and local veterans’ groups reported some form of theft, embezzlement or financial misconduct, typically involving employees or organizers, according to a search of annual tax disclosure forms from not-for-profit organizations.

The tax forms from 2008 through 2012 were provided by The Washington Post, which it published in October in a first-of-a-kind searchable database of information on not-for-profit groups.

While the dozens of local groups identified represent only a small fraction of veterans’ charities nationwide, the documents offer a rare look at the problems posed by poor oversight and lax accounting at some tax-exempt organizations that have substantial operating budgets and fundraising activites.

For example, AMVETS, a Florida-based charity, acknowledged that an employee wrongfully took more than $23,000 in 2011. The group said “legal action was taken against him” and stricter accounting policies were adopted afterward. Other examples found in the database:

■ The National Guard Association of South Carolina reported in 2009 that its auditors identified more than $32,000 in unauthorized disbursements.

■ A woman who ran bingo games for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Ladies Auxiliary in Del Rio, Texas, was accused of stealing money in 2011 and was investigated by local authorities.

■ A VFW office in Kentucky reported in 2008 that more than one employee was fired for theft, and one of those employees ended up in prison.

■ The National Veterans Foundation in California reported that, in 2012, an office manager was discovered taking cash kickbacks from a vendor in exchange for letting that firm overcharge the foundation for services. The total amount involved was not disclosed.

■ A VFW post in Austin, Texas, fired its quartermaster, the only paid employee, in 2011 after learning that money was missing from a fundraising sweepstakes.

■ Also in Austin, an American Legion outpost fired its unpaid financial officer after learning about a “theft of funds.” The amount was not disclosed.

■ A VFW post in Kingsley, Pa., reported a theft of “over $20,000,” and an investigation in 2011 led to charges brought against the group’s bookkeeper.

■ An American Legion post in Bristol, Conn., reported in 2011 that its financial manager was prosecuted for allegedly “misusing funds.”

The entire database is online at www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/local/nonprofit-diversions-database/.

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