When a child goes missing, it is heartbreaking for the family- but more than heartbreaking and more than devastating and horrifying, it is unbearable. And with the hope that the child is alive, many people throughout the nation and sometimes around the world open up their hearts to the tragedy-struck family and they often open up their wallets and pocketbooks- sending money to raise a reward for the missing child and to help fund a search. The family may set up a bona fide organization to receive donations; they may even fundraise.
But what of the family who sets up a scam. They fundraise and ask for donations in the name of their missing child. And the public, out of the goodness of their hearts, overflowing with sympathy to him and his family, pour out their love, prayers, and money. Unlike the family that informs the public of how much money is raised and announces the current reward amount, this particular family does not set up a reward, does not let on how much money is coming in, and does not reveal how donations are spent. Just because a missing child is involved, should the public turn a blind eye to questionable activity?
In the case of missing baby Gabriel Johnson, Logan McQueary- the baby’s court-declared father, whose paternity was legally questioned by the baby’s mother, Elizabeth Johnson- began fundraising in early February with Jessica’s Law Now North Carolina, which is touted as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization without evidence of such. The McQueary family set up The Gabriel Johnson Trust with a Bank of America branch in Prescott Arizona. Three months have passed since the Trust account’s inception and no reward has been raised for the safe return of missing Gabriel Johnson.
Yet, on February 18 2010, Arizona Central reported the following: “McQueary is now getting help from Mannys Mexican Restaurant in Avondale. This weekend, the restaurant plans to raise money to double the $5,000.00 reward to $10,000.00 as well as help pay for McQueary’s trips to San Antonio. “I don’t feel I should go back to work yet. We’re getting a lot of leads and just trying to follow up on,” said McQueary.
The report is misleading. The advertised $5,000 reward is offered by San Antonio Crime Stoppers. It is not for Gabriel’s safe return. It is instead for information leading to an arrest or grand jury indictment of a felony offender in the Gabriel Johnson case. So, how could a nonexistent reward for Gabriel be doubled.
Some public response to the Crime Stoppers reward has been this- since Elizabeth Johnson is in jail as her son’s alleged kidnapper and since Jack and Tammi Smith, who had hoped to adopt Gabriel, were cleared by Law Enforcement in his disappearance, why is a reward for a felon still offered? And why isn’t a reward offered for the baby’s safe return when one fundraiser alone was expected to raise greater than $5,000?
Who dares to criticize the parent or family of a missing child? Almost no one. This article is not to criticize Mr. McQueary and his family but to inform the public so that an educated decision can be made in donating. For those who wish to donate money to Mr. McQueary’s cause, visit Baby Gabriel Foundation, which is ‘being established as a non-profit corporation’ according to a very recent statement on the foundation’s site. Another donation site was First Giving/ Baby Gabriel but it has since been removed due to the ensuing issue.
The Gabriel page on First Giving states, “Please help us raise the reward being offered through Silent Witness for information in this case!” And the page linked to Silent Witness Inc in Phoenix Arizona, which gave its federal Employee Identification Number. The issue was that Silent Witness had not approved the Gabriel page. The close date of the new site, with a goal of $50,000 and a donation result of zero, is April 25, 2010. The demise of the short-lived page is because of the false use of the Silent Witness name.
Does the Baby Gabriel Foundation have a legitimate nonprofit status of 501(c)(3)? As stated earlier, the recent claim is that such a status is being established. Because the foundation was begun around April 22- the day before Logan McQueary, appeared on the Today show- it’s too soon for it to show up as a charitable organization in IRS Publication 78 or its Addition. And too soon for it to have received a ‘letter of determination’ in lieu of being listed.
And what did this statement by the foundation on the now-defunct site mean- “Anyone wishing to contribute directly to the reward fund offered by Silent Witness may contact Sgt. Darren Burch of the Phoenix Police Department, at 602-534-8596.”- read this here. This directive is legitimate but there is a catch.
The catch is that “Silent Witness does not feature Missing People or Children case’s unless the detective feels there was foul play involved. A minimum of $1000 must be provided for a specific case. This is not a donation but a “contingency’ or contract towards a specific case.” This means that if no foul play is involved, there is no reward. And if there were one, it would not be for Gabriel’s safe return.
If you still wish to donate money to Baby Gabriel’s case, use these latest details from Silent Witness– “please contact San Antonio PD at 210-224-7867 if you would like to make a direct donation to Silent Witness please do so by visiting our website at silentwitness.org or buildingsafercommunities.com.” Or donate on the website to Mr. McQueary’s private investigator Ken Gamble. For the link, click here.
Bottom line: Logan McQueary had first said he wanted to raise reward money for Baby Gabriel. That has not happened. The public does not know how much money has been raised so far or where it is being spent. Yet, there’s plenty of information on the Internet for learning how to set up a legitimate tax-exempt nonprofit organization for the purpose of a reward. Mr. McQueary even has an attorney who can help him- Timothy Maloney of The Law Offices of Maloney and Campolo in Texas. Among the firm’s specialties is ‘investor fraud’. Mr. McQueary reportedly retained Mr. Maloney in early March.
If you want to donate money to an organization possibly involved in monkeyshines, that’s up to you. Certainly not all ‘missing children’ or ‘missing person’ donor recipients are scams. In other words, don’t judge one fundraiser by another. Simply take precautions. Whenever giving money to a cause, make sure it is legitimate. Ask if it is nonprofit. If it isn’t, you cannot legally take your donated money as a tax deduction. To find out if the organization is not-for-profit, visit the IRS Publication 78 site and its Addition. Or visit GuideStar. If the organization isn’t listed with one or both but claims to be nonprofit, then ask for a ‘letter of determination’. Or donate at your own risk.
The Madeleine McCann fundraising, which involves millions of dollars, is believed to be fraudulent. Visit McCann Fund Fraud, which states “Less than two weeks after Madeleine McCann disappeared, the family and friends of the McCann family set up a company called Madeleine’s Fund: Leaving No Stone Unturned Limited. Without properly setting clear objectives and policies from the start, the company was set to become the vehicle for the “official” find Madeleine campaign- whatever that actually meant.”
The case of fundraising for missing baby Gabriel Johnson is similar. Its objectives are unclear and are frequently changing. It is supposed to be a vehicle to find Gabriel, leaving ‘no stone unturned’- again… whatever that means. A source who questioned the Gabriel fundraising sites with the FBI was told by the FBI, “The websites you mentioned is a scam perpetrated via the Internet. You can report all internet fraud to the FBI’s Internet Fraud Complaint Center.” The same source also called Silent Witness and was told that “this page (Baby Gabriel on First Giving) is in no way connected to them and that it was misleading content in order to receive funds from people.” To read a revealing larger excerpt of what First Giving said about the Baby Gabriel page, go to the end of this article.
About First Giving. First Giving is a legitimate organization. The site provides a visual gauge to show the $ goal and the $ progress toward that goal. For example, First Giving/ Romeo the Cat Forever Home, a legitimate fundraising venue, has a target of $1,000. The page, which states the fundraiser’s mission, is set to close on October 1, 2010. The goal has already been surpassed, with $1,304 so far, and people choose to continue to donate. On the site can be seen Online Donors user-names, the date, and a comment. Another legitimate First Giving example is the page for road racer Melissa Paris, who is fundraising for a breast cancer cure through theDr. Susan Love Research Foundation– another legitimate nonprofit organization, which can be found on Guide Star here.
Sites for missing children that are bona fide are, for just three examples, the ones for Jessie Foster, Kayleah Wilson Case, and Natalee Holloway.
Sites for missing children that are scams were: www.kidfinders.com; www.kidfindersnetwork.com; www.neverlosehopefoundation.org; www.haleighbug.com; www.bringhaleighhome.com
If you have a strong indication of a scam, report it at Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which is co-sponsored by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C). This data was given to Logan McQueary’s family by concerned potential donors, who reportedly informed the family of potential fraud in the family’s fundraising. To find a charity you can trust, click here.
If you have information (see details mentioned earlier) in the case of Gabriel Johnson, call Crime Stoppers 210-224-STOP (7867) or click here to submit your tip online. Or text a tip to 274637: Tip 127 plus the tip. The reward does not involve tax dollars. Rewards are paid from court-ordered probation fees from those convicted of crimes.
Addendum: What UK’s First Giving said about the Baby Gabriel site-
“The way that FirstGiving works is that people can create a fundraising page for their favourite nonprofit, as long as that nonprofit is a registered US 501(c)(3) that is listed in the national Guidestar database. All donations made through our site are sent directly to the nonprofit – nothing is ever sent to the page creator. So the page creator, Eva Chasida, is not receiving any money through this page- all donations made will come to FirstGiving, and we will then send them on to Silent Witness at the address they have listed in GuideStar.
The nonprofit [Silent Witness] did not set this page up- a private individual who wants to raise money for them did. The nonprofit does not need to be involved or have an account with us in order to receive checks from us. As long as they are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that is listed by GuideStar, we can send them funds.
I understand that another individual had set up a scam trust fund elsewhere. That is essentially not possible through FirstGiving, as we never send the funds to the individual, only to the nonprofit. However, I see that there is a link on the page to www.babygabrielfoundation.org- that is a separate site that we are not affiliated with, and the link did not load when I just tried it.” (The link does load at this time but the Silent Witness one no longer does).
Missing Gabriel Johnson: Is McQueary’s ‘Nonprofit’ Fundraiser Partner Jessica’s Law Now Really Nonprofit?;
Missing Baby Gabriel Johnson: $Donations Go to Search; Background Checks Cost Money, Says McQueary;
How We Can Help Find Missing Baby Gabriel Johnson & Bring Him Home;
Sources: Most of the links are embedded in the article. The ones that are not embedded are listed here. But also included are a few of the embedded links here in raw form for your convenience.
Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3): http://www.ic3.gov/complaint/default.aspx;
McCann Fund Fraud: http://mccannfundfraud.info/about/;
Charity Navigator: http://www.charitynavigator.org/;
Start exploring Guide Star: http://www2.guidestar.org/;
AZ Central: Phase II of search for Baby Gabriel starts:
For fraud other than fundraising fraud, visit the Home of the National Consumer League’s Fraud Center http://www.fraud.org/;