New York Attorney General Letitia James today continued her efforts to combat fraud in charitable organizations by filing a civil complaint against Shirley Goddard, the former executive director and Board Chair of the Humanitarian Organization for Multicultural Experiences, Inc. (H.O.M.E.) and her husband Tyrone Goddard. Between 2012 and 2018, Mrs. Goddard improperly diverted or misused nearly a million dollars in H.O.M.E.’s charitable assets for her personal gain. Mr. Goddard, the former board chair, was aware of and helped to conceal his wife’s unlawful conduct. The money that the Goddards stole hindered H.O.M.E.’s ability to fulfill its mission to provide critical services to individuals with developmental disabilities in the Syracuse area.
Today’s complaint seeks restitution of the funds that were diverted from H.O.M.E., as well as a permanent bar on any fiduciary role for Shirley or Tyrone Goddard in any New York charitable organization.
“Stealing funds that are used to help developmentally disabled individuals is cruel and goes against everything that we stand for as New Yorkers,” said Attorney General James. “Our communities have faith that our charities will help them through their struggles, and our charities must be stable, honest, and ethical in order to do so. Today’s lawsuit demonstrates my commitment to pursue wrongdoers who take advantage of charities and the vulnerable communities they serve.”
In May 2018, the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) referred the matter to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) when an audit uncovered financial improprieties and suspected theft of funds from H.O.M.E. The OAG’s subsequent investigation found that over the course of 6 years, Mrs. Goddard falsified loans to clients, manipulated expense reimbursements, and took overpayments of her salary. Through unauthorized phone transfers, cash withdrawals, and ATM transactions, she embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars. Mr. Goddard became aware of his wife’s theft by 2013, and rather than take action to stop the misconduct, he assisted in his wife’s effort to conceal the embezzlement.
To account for the financial inconsistencies, the Complaint alleges that the Goddards falsely claimed that funds missing from H.O.M.E.’s accounts were due to errors by H.O.M.E.’s bank — Bank of America — which they claimed was investigating the matter over a period of years. The couple would periodically make payments back into the H.O.M.E. accounts which bolstered the “bank error” story by making it appear that the bank was correcting the errors. The Complaint also alleges that Mrs. Goddard created fake letters from the bank that claimed to support the bank error investigation, and that she falsified bank statements and provided them to OPWDD. The Goddards further deceived the H.O.M.E. Board and the organization’s outside auditors by advising that they had visited the bank to address the problem and the bank would be repaying the missing funds.
At around November 2018, H.O.M.E. terminated Mrs. Goddard as executive director. Mr. Goddard, who was a chairman of the H.O.M.E Board, resigned at the same time.
Today’s complaint seeks full restitution of the charitable assets that were diverted from H.O.M.E. as a result of the Goddards’ actions. The amount of restitution will be determined at trial and is currently estimated to be between $650,000 and approximately $900,000. To protect the integrity of New York charities, Attorney General James is also seeking a permanent bar prohibiting the Goddards from holding any fiduciary role in a charitable or nonprofit organization operating in New York.
A complaint is merely an accusation; the defendants have the right to contest the allegations of a complaint at a civil trial, and the attorney general has the burden of proving each of these allegations at trial by the preponderance of the evidence.
This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Sharon Sash with the assistance of Associate Accountant Darren Beauchamp under the supervision of Emily Stern, Co-Chief of Charities Enforcement and James Sheehan, Chief of the Charities Bureau. The Charities Bureau is a part of the Division for Social Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux, and is overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.
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