MLR

Con artist steals millions claiming tax-exempt status

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Nonprofit organizations have struggled enough through the economy the past five years without having bogus charitable groups luring and ripping off potential donors.

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Unfortunately, scams are all too common these days. Here is an example of one of the biggest ones.

In a 2013 case in Tennessee, a con artist bilked nearly $24 million in assets out of donors before being arrested and found guilty of mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. He was sentenced to 31 years in prison and ordered to pay $6 million in restitution to 190 victims.

The case against Richard Olive of Vero Beach, Fla., involved the National Foundation of America (NFOA) headquartered in Franklin, Tenn., which Olive represented as a charitable group recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) organization.

Targeting primarily elderly individuals, Olive solicited millions in annuities, real estate and other assets with the promise they would receive an “installment bargain contract” from NFOA that would give them a guaranteed payout over time, as well as a “generous tax deduction.”

The majority of the assets were annuities, which Olive surrendered so he could access the cash, despite incurring high penalties.

Not surprisingly, when it came time to make good on his promises, the money had been spent on Olive’s lavish lifestyle, which included purchasing a $690,000 condominium in Las Vegas and other real estate, running up extravagant credit card charges and chartering a private jet for family vacations.

Olive donated only $108,000 to charity, less than one-half of 1 percent of the $23.6 million NFOA received.

The case was investigated by the FBI and the criminal investigation division of the IRS.