A breast cancer charity that claimed to raise money for medical care will close and pay $350,000 following a state investigation into its fundraising and operations, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Friday.
State investigators found that instead of supporting cancer care, more than 90 percent of the money donated to the Breast Cancer Survivors Foundation was funneled to its outside fundraiser, Mark Gelvan, as well as Gelvan's other companies and business associates. Less than four percent of the money raised by the foundation went to medical care.
"There are few things more galling than pretending to help cancer patients, when you're really just lining your own pockets," Schneiderman said in a statement from his office that referred to the foundation as a "sham."
Under the legal settlement with the state announced Friday, the Foundation will cease operations nationwide. The $350,000 will go to "legitimate" breast cancer organizations, Schneiderman's office said.
The foundation was founded in 2010 by physician Yulius Poplyansky at the suggestion of Gelvan, a family friend, according to the settlement papers. It was initially based in New Jersey but soon relocated to an office in Florida, where Poplyansky lives. By 2014, the foundation was raising an average of $3 million a year, thanks in part to "false and misleading" charitable solicitations that featured medical services for cancer patients, according to officials.
Poplyansky and other members of the foundation board allowed Gelvan to run the organization behind the scenes and turn it into his personal "cash cow," Schneiderman's office said.
The state of New York barred Gelvan from professional fundraising in 2004 because of an earlier investigation into charitable fundraising.
Messages left for Gelvan and Poplyansky on Friday were not immediately returned.
Poplyansky was not paid for his work on the foundation. As part of the settlement he wrote an apology to donors and individuals and families touched by breast cancer.
"I now understand that I had no idea what was going on in my own foundation and that my desire to help people was taken advantage of by people that just wanted to make money off this very serious cause," he wrote.