Minister made millions off of 9/11 charity
First with raising funds for 9/11 victims in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, then collecting money to aid New Orleans residents left devastated after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2007, Rev. Keyes collected tens of millions of dollars to supposedly finance an array of endeavors he advertised as charity work. The Associated Press has published an update in their intensive investigation of Rev. Keyes and his peculiar paper trial, however, and now report that the pastor funneled a great deal of donations to pay for his own luxurious lifestyle.
The AP says that their probe has led them to a number of former employees and colleagues of Rev. Keyes, as well as a trove of financial records pertaining to his alleged charity work. And while he may have indeed aided the victims of 9/11, Katrina and other catastrophes on American soil, the AP says the pastor used donations to fund his children’s education and make personal credit card payments, as well.
For years, the AP reports, Keyes failed to file required federal and state financial reports to catalog how charitable donations to his organizations were made and spent. Meanwhile, Rev. Keyes used donations made to his church to pay for his son’s private college tuition and even pay off his mortgage, a move that the AP says prompted the pastor’s accountant to resign in protest.
"Not only was this (nonprofit) plundered to fund the operating deficits of the church, the amounts were spent on personal items of the pastor's family, and thus were items of taxable income," former accountant Bruce Kowal writes in a 2008 complaint he filed in New York State. The AP says they have uncovered that filing, as well as others, that show the abuse of charitable donations. In the documents signed by Kowal, he writes that money offered to Rev. Keyes’ Urban Life Ministries was intended for Hurricane Katrina victims but a significant amount went elsewhere — including American Express bills, the leasing of a car for his son and even paying off a personal loan.
"I had repeatedly admonished the pastors that these actions were possibly illegal," Kowal writes.
The AP adds that tax forms filed under Urban Life Ministries and a separate charity, Aid for the World, include information that even the pastor’s brother-in-law has suggested are inaccurate.
"If the New York attorney general were to ever find out, then goodness knows the kind of trouble you and the church could be in, never mind the IRS or the feds," David Cushworth, another accountant once with Urban Life Ministries, said before he resigned in 2008.
In defense of Rev. Keyes, his lawyer tells the AP that all money given to the charities were spent properly and that attempts to discredit the pastor are being waged with no clout.
"Sorry that you don't have a real 'story' here, but the truth is actually quite boring since no one did anything wrong," his lawyer, Jennifer Polovetsky, told the AP only one month ago.