Drummond files complaint against sham cancer charity for deceiving donors

OKLAHOMA CITY (March 15 2024) – Attorney General Gentner Drummond has filed a lawsuit against a sham cancer charity for deceiving generous donors who offered financial support to women battling cancer.

In a complaint filed Monday in federal court, a 10-state coalition has joined the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleging that the Cancer Recovery Foundation International, also known as Women’s Cancer Fund, and its operator, Gregory B. Anderson, collected more than $18 million from donors between 2017 and 2022. The organization claimed it would use the donations to help women undergoing treatment for cancer pay for their families’ basic needs. Instead, the complaint charges, only about one cent of every dollar went to provide support, while the overwhelming majority went to pay for-profit fundraisers and Anderson.

“It is appalling that this organization abused the generosity of donors who only wanted to help cancer victims and their families,” Drummond said. “This illegal conduct robbed women who were undergoing treatment for cancer and, in the process, undermined fundraising efforts for legitimate charities.”

According to the complaint, fundraisers for Women’s Cancer Fund told prospective donors that their gifts would “help save lives” and “directly help patients with basic living expenses.”

However, the sham charity’s tax filings and records tell a different story.

While Women’s Cancer Fund collected $18 million from tens of thousands of donors, it only spent $194,809 on financial support to cancer patients. At the same time, it paid Anderson $775,139 – nearly four times as much as Women’s Cancer Fund collectively gave to all the cancer patients it supported. In addition to his salary, Anderson also used donated funds for various costly expenses such as hotels and travel. Meanwhile Women’s Cancer Fund gave most of the funds it collected from donors – about 85 percent – to for-profit fundraisers that Anderson hired to make deceptive pitches on behalf of the organization.

In addition to using deceptive phone solicitation pitches, Women’s Cancer Fund used deceptive solicitation letters, often signed by Anderson. One such letter stated: “While other organizations rightfully invest millions of dollars in cancer research to find a cure for patients in the future, we help patients keep a roof over their head and the lights on so they can survive cancer today.”

In 2021, Oklahoma and the FTC sued two of the fundraising companies, Associated Community Services and Directele, hired by Women’s Cancer Fund for deceptive fundraising. The complaint in the latest action alleges that those enforcement actions did not deter Anderson, who went on to hire other fundraisers for similarly deceptive claims on behalf of Women’s Cancer Fund.

In addition to Oklahoma and the FTC, the complaint was filed by California, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin and alleges that Women’s Cancer Fund and Anderson violated the FTC Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule and state consumer protection laws.

Consumers looking for more information about how to donate safely and avoid charity scams can find it on the FTC’s website.