Until early last year, the website of a Brooklyn-based charity called the National Children’s Leukemia Foundation boasted that the organization had its own “biomedical cancer research center” where “leading scientists” were working on cancer treatments. A PowerPoint slide that the group’s founder, Zvi Shor, used in a presentation showed an office building where the research center was said to be located, with the words “Biomedical Cancer Research Center” across the side of the building.
Shor has now admitted that the group had no research center, nor any of its own scientists. A half-million dollar grant to an organization controlled by Shor’s sister in Israel had bought space a building in Petah Tikva, Israel, but no lab was built there. The picture on the PowerPoint slide? A Photoshopped fake.
In a settlement announced today by the office of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Shor admitted that many of NCLF’s claims about the good work it did were empty. Instead, 85% of the $9.7 million it raised between 2009 and 2013 went to cover fundraising costs.
Under the terms of the settlement, which ends a lawsuit filed this July by the Attorney General’s office against NCLF and its officers,, the charity will now be dissolved. Its executives have agreed to pay back $380,000, and Shor and his son Shlomo Shor will be barred from ever again acting as an officer or director of any charity that raises money in the United States.
Schneiderman’s office sued NCLF and its officers in June, alleging that the group had used the “vast majority” of $10 million it had raised for “non-charitable purposes.” Shor admitted, as part of the settlement, that many of the programs that NCLF told donors and the public that it operated were either blown vastly out of proportion, or had never existed.
While phone solicitations and mailers boasted of an NCLF program that granted “the last wishes of children with cancer,” the group admitted that, between July 2009 and March 2014, only two “wishes” were granted: One for a laptop, another for a drip to Disney World. And while the group’s website claimed that it ran a bone marrow registry, Shor admitted to investigators that that wasn’t true.
Shor also admitted that claims on the group’s website, in a fundraising brochure, and in the PowerPoint presentation that it was running a “Cancer Research Center” were false. Some of the $655,00 money that NCLF sent to the Israeli group run by Shor’s sister did fund research at Ariel University in the occupied West Bank, but the Attorney General’s office was unable to determine how much.
The Attorney General’s office also reached a settlement with the group’s auditor, Shlomo Donn, and with Yehuda Gutwein, an accountant who, on paper, was listed as the group’s president. Gutwein admitted that he knew little about the organization and had never visited its office, although he was listed as president for years. Zvi Shor passed the title of president on to Gutwein in 2010, yet retained control of the group through Gutwein and through Shor’s son, Shlomo.
Donn, for his part, admitted that, while he had signed NCLF’s audit reports, his audits did not meet basic standards.
For the next three years, both Gutwein and Donn must hand over to the Attorney General’s office the names of any not-for-profits that either of them audit or provide accounting services for.
“My office will continue to go after so-called charities that cynically assume a sympathetic name and then deceive generous New Yorkers into making generous donations for persons in need,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “We are committed to ensuring that funds contributed by donors reach their intended recipients.”
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.