We all know those familiar tables that are set up across New York City that represent the United Homeless Organization. The table consists of nothing more except a tablecloth, a jug full of coins and dollar bills, and a worker asking for change. For years, New Yorkers dropped money in them, always a little skeptical about where the money goes.
Well, it turns out that attorney general, Andrew M. Cuomo, announced that the United Homeless Organization is a fraud, and his office filed a lawsuit against the group. The lawsuit alleges that the president of the United Homeless Organization, Stephen Riley (who claims to have once been homeless), and the program’s director, Myra Walker, has used tens of thousands of donated dollars for personal expenses, while failing to provide any actual services for the homeless.
Apparently, the table workers pay the president and the director a $15-per-shit fee to use the tables and materials, and keep the rest of what they collect. Mr. Riley and Ms. Walker then use this fee to pay for premium cable television, restaurant meals, trips to Mr. Riley’s home town of Cleveland, and shopping trips to GameStop, the Home Shopping Network, and the Weight Watchers website.
The attorney general’s office has decided not to press criminal charges, and the best way to end this scam was through a civil lawsuit.
While the group claims to run homeless shelters, soup kitchens and a detox center, as well as creating programs that provide food and clothing to the homeless. However, according to Mr. Cuomo’s office, Mr. Riley and Ms. Walker admitted in testimony that the group does not have such programs.
“U.H.O. exploits the good intentions of people who thought that their charitable donations were helping to fund services for the homeless,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement. “Instead, their donations go directly to U.H.O.’s principals and workers, who abused the organization’s tax-exempt status to line their own pockets.”