Local Cancer Charity Says Money Raised For Families Appears To Be 'Gone' | NBC 7 San Diego
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Local Cancer Charity Says Money Raised For Families Appears To Be 'Gone'

Donations to WishWarriors estimated to be in the tens of thousands, the charity's lawyer says

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    "Shocked and blindsided" by news their CEO has a criminal past, a charity takes a closer look into its finances. NBC 7's Candice Nguyen reports. (Published Saturday, July 11, 2015)

    Susan and Rodney Harvey helped WishWarriors promote its “Kick Cancer” Golf Tournament in hopes the cancer nonprofit would financially assist them as they tried to save their 13-year-old daughter’s life.

    Friday, they said those hopes are dashed, as they learned the tens of thousands of dollars raised by the nonprofit appear to have vanished.

    In an email to NBC 7 Investigates, Angelica Simmons, a board member and the attorney for WishWarriors, said, “at this time it appears most of the money raised by WishWarriors is gone.”

    Earlier this week, the Harvey family raised concerns about WishWarriors in an NBC 7 Investigates story. Her parents said they felt the nonprofit took advantage of their situation and used their daughter as a marketing tool.

    "I'm not really surprised," said Rodney. "Once certain things got revealed, I thought that was going to be the outcome of this, that the money was gone." 

    But to the Poway parents of 12-year-old Maddie Taylor, who was also featured by WishWarriors, the revelation is shocking.

    "It's mind boggling that people can use you like that and your community and every one of our friends who went there," said Maddie's mother Georgine Taylor.

    NBC 7 Investigates started digging into WishWarriors and found the then-President and CEO, Brianna King, had a criminal past. While running the charity, there were at least three active warrants for her arrest connected to charges unrelated to her work with the charity.

    Click here to see the complete investigation:

    It’s King, according to Simmons, who had “full control” over WishWarriors’ bank accounts and was the person who dealt with the charity on a “day-to-day basis.”

    In a statement, Simmons and the WishWarriors’ Board of Directors said they “had no knowledge of Ms. King’s criminal past.”

    King’s Criminal History

    King’s past includes misdemeanor charges in Riverside County in 2005 for writing bad checks to two stores. King never appeared in court. Two years later, in Orange County, King pleaded guilty to felony charges for burglary and writing bad checks.

    She was arrested in Lake Arrowhead last week in connection with probation violations related to the Orange County felony charges. She was released late Wednesday after admitting to violating her probation terms.

    In the statement, the WishWarrior board members said they “were shocked and blindsided by the arrest” of King. It’s the arrest, according to the statement, that prompted them to look into the charity’s finances.

    Wednesday, the board learned “that the known WishWarriors bank account was closed by the bank for insufficient funds in May 2015,” according to their statement.

    “The Board members have no information as to whether the money was moved to another account or whether it has been squandered by Ms. King,” the statement reads.

    Click here to read the complete statement from WishWarriors.

    According to Simmons, King “has not admitted to anything.” When Simmons asked King about her criminal past, King said it was a "misunderstanding," Simmons told NBC 7 Investigates.

    Calls and emails to King from NBC 7 Investigates have gone unanswered.

    According to the statement from the board members, the cancer charity reported the “missing funds” to the San Diego County Sheriff Department.

    At an emergency meeting Wednesday, Simmons said, the board also removed King as both the president and a board member of the organization and has suspended all of its fundraising activities.

    A spokesperson for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, Jan Caldwell, could not immediately confirm if the department had received the report from WishWarriors but is looking into it.

    In a statement to NBC 7 Investigates Friday, Lt. Scott Wahl, a spokesperson for the San Diego Police Department, confirmed the San Diego District Attorney’s Office is “conducting the criminal investigation of Brianna.”

    SDPD “opened an internal investigation immediately upon being notified of the situation,” according to Wahl. Read the full statement from SDPD below.

    King’s significant other is an SDPD officer, Wahl confirmed to NBC 7 Investigates.

    The Families

    Within a week of Kasey Harvey’s Rhabdomyosarcoma cancer diagnosis late last year, her Rancho Penasquitos parents got a letter from one of Kasey’s schoolmates. In the letter, the girl writes her father works for WishWarriors. According to the letter, WishWarriors “helps raise money for families of children with cancer.”

    The Harveys were heavily involved in a WishWarriors golf tournament fundraiser at Maderas Golf Club last April. NBC 7 Investigates confirmed the fundraiser was attended by San Diego Chargers players and received thousands of dollars in donations from other participants.

    Maddie Taylor, who is battling a form of bone cancer, was also highlighted at the “Kick Cancer” Golf Tournament.

    According to her parents, the family was contacted within a month of Maddie’s diagnosis with Ewing Sarcoma. WishWarriors promised them financial support in exchange for participating in the golf fundraiser.

    NBC 7 Investigates has confirmed neither family has received any money from the event.

    "I just remember them saying someone might have stolen moeny, someone probably did steal money," said Maddie. "I I just thought, wow."

    Even though the money is gone, Maddie said that she wanted to thank all the donors for their support and that "I love them back as much as I can."

    "God picks the toughest warriors to fight the toughest battles," the 12-year-old said.

    According to Simmons, the golf club was paid for having the fundraiser at its course.

    Scott Taylor, Maddie's father, said he realizes now that King had no intention to help his family.

    "How do you live with yourself?" he asked. "What's happened in your life that makes this right. Where's the justification?"

    NBC 7 Investigates reached out to the Chargers and Maderas Golf Course.

    In an email, Tony Pistillo with Maderas said they have shared everything it knows with the authorities and “have no further insight or comment.”

    In an email, Bill Johnston, the Director of Public Relations for the Chargers, said, “The Chargers organization has no connection to this organization or event whatsoever. The players involved were asked to participate by Dr. (Robert) Bjork and paid to play in the event the same as the other golfers.”

    Full statement from Wahl:

    "The San Diego Police Department opened an internal investigation immediately upon being notified of the situation. That investigation ultimately led to the apprehension of Brianna King for her outstanding warrants. We are fully cooperating with the San Diego District Attorney's Office who is now conducting the criminal investigation of Brianna. The extent of that investigation and the involvement of any other parties will have to come from the DA's Office."

    NBC 7 Investigates is working for you. If you have more information about this or other story tips, contact us: (619) 578-0393, NBC7Investigates@nbcuni.com. To receive the latest NBC 7 Investigates stories subscribe to our newsletter.