(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost today announced a settlement with a Wyandot County woman accused of using charitable donations for cars, vacations, motorcycle reconditioning, college tuition and cash for family members.
“She took with one hand and ended up spending with both,” Yost said. “Behavior like this not only harms other more deserving organizations but also the public’s trust in charity.”
Under the terms of the settlement, Melissa Johnson, of Upper Sandusky, agreed to dissolve her organization, the Koda Bear Foundation, to pay $2,000 in restitution, and to pay an $8,000 civil fine.
Johnson also agreed to never again incorporate a nonprofit organization in Ohio and to shut down websites and social media accounts related to the Koda Bear Foundation.
She also cannot serve as a board member or solicit on behalf of an Ohio nonprofit for five years.
The attorney general’s office investigation revealed that Johnson used charitable funds for personal purchases such as family trips, personal items and personal gatherings.
The investigation stemmed from a public complaint made in May 2018.
The Koda Bear Foundation had stated its mission was to provide headstones for families who have lost a child, namely for “stillborn” children. The organization had total revenue of $33,671.97 in 2018.
Most Ohio charities are small. More than half (53%) of them reported revenues under $100,000 this past year. Only 13% reported revenues of more than $1 million.
Suspected charitable fraud should be reported to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800-282-0515.