Shell Breast Cancer Charity Pocketed Donations

Breast Cancer Survivors Foundation settled to pay $350,000 to legitimate breast cancer charities.

New York Attorney General Eric T Schneiderman recently announced a settlement with the Breast Cancer Survivors Foundation (BCSF) and the organization’s founder and president, Yulius Poplyansky, MD.

The charity falsely led donors to believe that the organization provided services to patients with breast cancer and to those at risk of the disease; however, an investigation discovered that BCSF was a shell charity, according to a press release. The organization was developed and run by its primary fundraiser, Mark Gelvan, who pocketed .92 cents per dollar, according to a press release. Gelvan is a professional fundraiser.

Under the settlement, BCSF will be shut down and pay $350,000 to legitimate breast cancer organizations.

“There are few things more galling than pretending to help cancer patients, when you’re really just lining your own pockets. But that’s exactly what those behind the Breast Cancer Survivors Foundation did — siphoning millions in profits for themselves and sending less than 4 cents of every dollar raised to medical clinics,” Schneiderman said in a press release. “As our Operation Bottomfeeder has shown, too often these shell charities exploit popular causes to enrich professional fundraisers. I’m committed to using the full power of my office to stop those who take advantage of people’s generosity to make a quick buck.”

Operation Bottomfeeder is an initiative that targets shell charities that exploit popular causes, professional fundraisers who pocket the donations, and other parties that facilitate the activities, according to the release.

In 2016, the Charities Bureau shut down the American Foundation for Disabled Children, which claimed to provide services and resources for children with special needs, but was found to be a source of income for its fundraisers. Additionally, in 2016, Schneiderman announced a settlement with the National Vietnam Veteran’s Foundation, in which the founder and president was indicted for wire fraud.

BCSF was started in 2010 and by 2014, the shell charity raised an average of $3 million annually from its campaigns, according to the release.

The investigation uncovered that Dr Poplyansky created BCSF after receiving encouragement from Gelvan, despite lacking experience in the charity space. Dr Poplyansky and board members allowed BCSF to be run by Gelvan, who turned the charity into something that profited him and his businesses, according to the release.

Interestingly, Gelvan has been banned from professional fundraising in New York since 2004 due to litigation previously brought by the attorney general.

Gelvan provided the initial investment to start BCSF and ensured his own companies and businesses were hired to provide services for the charity, according to the release.

While he had no official role within the charity, Gelvan oversaw financial reporting, attended board meetings, prepared board minutes, responded to the media, and prepared responses for the investigation’s subpoenas, Schneiderman reported.

The investigation also revealed that Gelvan played a crucial role in developing BCFS’s charitable solicitations, which included false accounts of doctor-patient interactions, nonexistent forums for survivors, and international prescription drug programs. These solicitations led potential donors to believe the BCSF was providing medical services for patients with breast cancer, according to the release.

Despite these solicitations, BCSF had no office and provided no benefit to patients with breast cancer. BCSF reported that only 3.5% of funds raised over the past 4 years were granted to clinics.

Dr Poplyansky did not receive compensation for his role at the charity, but he failed to honor his legal responsibilities and has admitted wrongdoing. As such, Dr Poplyansky plans to cooperate with the ongoing investigation and has dissolved the charity, according to the attorney general.

Dr Poplyansky also issued an apology to donors and those who have been affected by breast cancer, the release concluded.