The head of a local charitable organization claiming to help soldiers incarcerated for crimes allegedly committed during combat instead used donated funds at liquor stores, Redbox kiosks and for other personal purposes, the Ohio Attorney General said Friday.
Riverside resident Cari Johnson, head of the charity A Dollar to Care, signed an agreement with the attorney general's office to cease operations. She will also pay a $20,000 fine, half of which the attorney general will distribute to charity. Half will pay for the cost of the investigation.
"As we did in this case, we will continue to go after those who misuse contributions given to support our veterans," Attorney General Mike DeWine said.
Despite not registering as a nonprofit with the IRS or with the state as a charity, A Dollar to Care organized several events including its "First Annual Patriotic Freedom Ride" in 2012.
The charity's Facebook page lists its mission: "Our major goal is to be able to help in the event of a financial burden such as food, travel expenses to and from their incarcerated warrior, warriors phone calls home, etc. Our core belief is no military member or their family should ever have to struggle to obtain basic necessities, especially when children are involved."
A complaint received by the attorney general's office and obtained by the Dayton Daily News says it's from the attorney of a soldier the charity claimed to support. It says Johnson was using the names of that soldier and others to raise money, but "not a single soldier's famliy has stepped up and acknowledged that they have received any support."
The charity did distribute turkeys, presents and inmate phone cards one holiday season, the agreement between Johnson and the state says. But the charity generally failed to use donations it received for its stated purposes.
The agreement says Johnson will stop operating as a charity, shut down any websites or social media it has and donate any remaining assets to a property charity serving veterans. Failing to comply could mean a $50,000 fine.
Johnson could not be reached for comment Friday. The last post on A Dollar to Care's facebook page from February said the charity hadn't operated since November, "given my own personal issues."