NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced on Thursday that his office has obtained a judgment to close down a not-for-profit that claimed it was helping the homeless.
United Homeless Organization, Inc., its president, Stephen Riley, and its director, Myra Walker, are now permanently banned from operating a not-for-profit in the state of New York.
Cuomo's suit charged Riley, Walker and UHO with defrauding individuals and violating New York State's not-for-profit and charitable solicitation laws by tricking the public into donating cash to fund services for the homeless.
Cuomo alleges that Riley and Walker had UHO workers set up tables throughout the city containing plastic jugs to collect donated money that was supposed to be used for services for the homeless. The collected money, however, was kept by defendants or the workers.
UHO workers, Cuomo alleges, encouraged donations by using false and misleading statements that the money collected would be used to "help the homeless," "feed the homeless," or go to "charities and different churches" or pantries, shelters and detox centers.
UHO, however, did not operate any shelters, soup kitchens or food pantries, nor did it purchase food, clothing or other essential items for the homeless, Cuomo says. The not-for-profit also did not provide social workers or any social services to assist the homeless or otherwise fund other charities' efforts on behalf of the homeless, Cuomo says.
Justice Barbara R. Kapnick of the New York Supreme Court granted the judgment after the defendants failed to answer a complaint filed in November.
"The court's judgment will permanently prevent UHO, Riley and Walker from exploiting the trust and good will of New Yorkers and visitors to New York City," Cuomo said.
"This organization's bad behavior should not undermine the public's willingness to donate to legitimate charities. This case should remind people that it is important to take the time to understand the organization to which they are contributing and what is done with the money."
The judgment calls for UHO to be dissolved. Riley, and Walker are banned from operating not-for-profits in New York State under terms of the judgment.