The Pasco County-based charity Kids Wish Network, once named by several media organizations as the “worst charity in America,” is now facing a lawsuit alleging fraud.
St. Petersburg consumer lawyer Matt Weidner alleges in his Pinellas lawsuit, “Kids Wish Network’s entire fundraising model is predicated on false, deceptive and unfair and unduly manipulative fundraising campaigns that mislead the general public.”
Weidner goes on to allege, “In numerous instances, KWN spent nothing, or an infinitesimal amount in relation to the amount raised, on helping improve the lives of children.”
“I think that the way the money is distributed is one of the most ghastly aspects of this,” Weidner told 8 On Your Side.
Last week, 8 On Your Side reported that professional fundraisers kept 85 percent of the $13.9 million Kids Wish counted as revenue last year based on documents filed with the IRS.
Less than one percent of that total was spent granting wishes to kids with life threatening illnesses, according to the Kids Wish Network annual financial report.
“When they take money from well-meaning consumers they’re diverting that money from real charities that do good work for children,” Weidner said.
His lawsuit asks the court to stop telemarketers from soliciting on behalf of Kids Wish and to require the charity to disclose what portion of its funds go toward its stated goal.
Weidner hopes that Florida’s newly-elected Attorney General Ashley Moody and the new Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried will also begin enforcement actions against the charity for, among other things, unlawfully using celebrity endorsements without their written permission as required by Florida law.
“This is really [a] call to action to our elected officials now take a look at what our charities are doing and do some enforcement,” Weidner said.
Kids Wish Network did not respond to repeated phone calls and an email sent by 8 On Your Side asking for comment about Weidner’s lawsuit.