JOPLIN, Mo. (Legal Newsline) - Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced a proposed agreement on Wednesday with a New Orleans-based fundraiser who allegedly diverted money collected for Joplin tornado relief to her personal bank account.
Sidney Ray-Bazan collected more than $133,000 in donations for rebuilding efforts in Joplin. Ray-Bazan allegedly diverted more than $39,000 of the donations for personal use. Ray-Bazan allegedly made frequent cash withdrawals and transfers to her personal account from the charity's bank account and spent donated funds on restaurants, clothing boutiques, veterinary offices, grocery stores and childcare.
Ray-Bazan's charitable organization, Relief Spark, also never applied for recognition as a tax-exempt charity with the IRS.
"In 2011, good-hearted people across Missouri and the nation donated money to help the citizens of Joplin recover and rebuild," Koster said. "Unfortunately, we know that some individuals diverted charitable donations for personal gain. I am pleased that today we return a portion of that money to the people of Joplin."
Under the terms of the proposed agreement, Ray-Bazan would pay $39,200 to the Community Foundation of the Ozarks and no longer solicit funds for any charitable purposes in the state of Missouri for five years.
Community Foundation of the Ozarks plans to provide the settlement funds to Rebuild Joplin, a nonprofit agency dedicated to Joplin's rebuilding efforts.