Hundreds of thousands of dollars are missing from Mary J. Blige’s charity right along with the organization’s headquarters, phone lines, and any other contact information making the group seem just a tad bit—okay a lot—shady.
The Mary J. Blige and Steve Stoute Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now, known as FFAWN, was created in 2007 to empower women but the funds raised to do so seem to have magically disappeared and now everybody is asking for answers, including TD Bank who sued the charity a few weeks ago after it borrowed $250,000 from them in June 2011. The bank wanted repayment at the end of last year, but after sending two demand notices this February, they still got nothing. Now they want the courts to handle it.
That’s just one of Mary’s problems though. In 2010, she launched her My Life fragrance on the Home Shopping Network and it sold a record 60,000 bottles during its six-hour debut. One dollar from each sale was supposed to benefit FFAWN but the group’s 2010 annual report has nothing on its finances for that year, meaning that cash may have only benefited Mary’s net worth.
One place we know the money didn’t go is to hired entertainment because earlier this month, another lawsuit was filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan demanding $167,252 for wages and penalties for nonpayment. The suit comes from a group of 30 musicians and others who accompanied celebrities like Mary, Jennifer Hudson, and Christina Aguilera at a star-studded benefit concert on May 3, 2011. The band members were actually given checks, but when they went to cash them, they bounced.
“We got a whole series of checks — rubber,” Harvey Mars, a lawyer representing the group, told the NY Post.
What’s worse is when a process server went to deliver documents relating to the suit to the charity’s office last week, which is the headquarters of Stoute’s Translation marketing firm, a receptionist said that the charity was no longer there and she didn’t know where it was.
A source close to FFAWN reportedly acknowledged to the post that there were problems and said the group had retained a charity consultant, a forensic accountant and a law firm specializing in nonprofits “to look into certain issues” but that was about it. Those “issues” total up to nearly half a million dollars if you count the $18,000 supposedly spent on a press conference in 2008 that there’s no record of. In late 2010, Mary boasted on the “Today” show that she sent 25 women to college but you’d think there would be some record of that on the books if that’s where the funds went.
It’s also a bit curious that out of a reported $43.5 million dollars in earnings from concerts and album sales in 2008, Mary only donated $25,000 to FFAWN. Of course it’s her money and her business but it eems like she’s falling in the Jay-Z, Beyonce, questionable charity pool with that donation, though her problems are much bigger.
What do you think? Is FFAWN a scam?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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