Long Island Scam Artists Behind Phony Charity Found Guilty
|Joshua, Mindy and David Winston
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced two guilty pleas in connection with a fundraising scheme that concocted a bogus charity, raised and then stole more than $500,000 of donations intended to fight breast cancer.
David Winston pleaded guilty to two felony charges related to the operation of the phony charity, Coalition for Breast Cancer Cures, Inc, and a for-profit fundraising arm, The Resource Center, which funneled donations to pay for extravagant travel, shopping and other personal living expenses. His wife, Mindy Winston, pleaded guilty to one felony charge related to falsifying business records, specifically, a bank account for the sham charity.
“The Winstons supported a lavish lifestyle by using the hard-earned money donors gave to fight breast cancer,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “My office has no tolerance for this kind of exploitation, and we will hold accountable anyone who takes advantage of New Yorkers’ generosity and sympathies.”
David and Mindy Winston surrendered and appeared before the Acting County Court Judge for Nassau County, the Honorable Francis Ricigliano. David Winston pleaded guilty to one count of grand larceny, a Class D felony, and one count of scheme to defraud, a Class E felony, under a plea agreement. He will be sentenced at a later date to a term between 2 and 6 years. Mindy Winston pleaded guilty to one count of falsifying business record, a Class E felony, under a plea agreement. She will receive probation.
The Attorney General’s Office first filed a civil lawsuit against the Long Island-based fake charity in April 2010. The lawsuit alleged that the Winstons diverted more than $500,000 donated to fight breast cancer to pay for extravagant travel, shopping, and other personal living expenses. Some of the unlawful expenditures the Attorney General’s Office uncovered include:
- Over $3,700 in personal hotel and airfare expenses;
- Over $5,000 at restaurants including Peter Luger Steakhouse, Caesars Palace Mesa Grill, and Gotham Bar and Grill;
- Over $7,700 in retail purchases at stores such as Louis Vuitton, Victoria’s Secret, Home Depot, Best Buy, Costco, CVS, Loehmann’s, and Target;
- Over $8,000 for their daughter’s sorority dues and other university expenses and fees;
- Over $1,300 for a spring break travel package;
- Thousands of dollars on groceries, Netflix, and cable television.
The civil lawsuit, which is still pending, also alleged that the Winstons falsely claimed that the Coalition for Breast Cancer Cures was a registered nonprofit, mailed phony invoices to dupe donors, and repeatedly charged donors’ credit cards without authorization. The Coalition for Breast Cancer Cures did not register with the Attorney General as a charitable organization and the Resource Center did not register with the Attorney General as a professional fundraiser, as required by law.
New Yorkers are encouraged to visit www.charitiesnys.com for tips on making donations to reliable organizations.