Alleged Charity Scam Puts Non-Profit In Jeopardy
By Charlotte Young
Stephan Bekale was an exceptional young man who founded his non-profit, Hoops for Africa, to uplift and educate young Africans. But what started as an inspiration story is now overshadowed by ugly allegations of fraud.
As a child, Bekale moved back and forth between his native Gabon and France. He picked up a love for basketball early on. With his family’s hard-earned savings, Bekale bought a ticket to the US and moved to NY at the age of 15, where he was homeless and worked as a street vendor.
After deciding that New York was not for him, he relocated to Washington, D.C., where he still faced poverty and homelessness. But it didn’t stop him from emerging as a basketball star at Notre Dame Academy. He received a full scholarship from Penn State University.
But back home, tragedy struck; Bekale learned that he lost both of his parents to AIDS. Yet the determined young man still graduated and later started a project called Hoops for Africa. The mission was to use the power of basketball and the NBA to spread HIV/AIDS awareness to African youth. In June 2005, Senator Barack Obama wrote a testimonial letter on the Hoops for Africa website.
Things took a turn for Bekale and his organization when on April 5, he and four others were indicted with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering, according to Forbes.
The charges claim that Bekale received matching funds from Bank of America after falsely certifying that Bank of America employees made contributions to his organization. The other four co-defendants are all former Bank of America employees who were supposedly given a cut for the false donations.
It’s not a good look for the hard working young man who persevered and overcame so much. But it’s an even bigger disappointment for the children his charity set out to help.