ST. LOUIS, MO. (KTVI) – The Missouri Attorney General`s office is investigating a nonprofit managed by high profile board members. Board members include two sport broadcasters. Investigative reporter Chris Hayes found the reported victims are also well known.
Lawrence Coldon was introduced to the non-profit, called Athletes and Entertainers Circle of Influence, while searching for his missing daughter. He told us, “Whatever it takes to find her, that`s what we are willing to do.”
Coldon and his wife mortgaged their house to search for their daughter, Phoenix. She’s been missing since December, 2011. He added, “We can`t give up hope.”
He was encouraged by an internet posting by the ‘Athletes and Entertainers.’ We showed him the posting again during our interview the 2nd week of February, 2013. It was asking for money to help pay for the search for Phoenix. Lawrence Coldon read from the posting, “It says, ‘please help to support this family. Donations are requested urgently. Donate now.'”
Then a phone call, Lawrence said he was told they`d raised funds.
Coldon said he thought “something substantial had been raised that they could pay the expenses of the P.I.”
But when he made the trip to the Chesterfield location for Athletes and Entertainers, he said Executive Director Cindi Mainer told him they had no money. Coldon explained, “They told us they had funds to help us, then when we sent the receipts there was no funds.” Coldon added that they said, “it came down to, well, it was a misunderstanding. We did not say there was money here to help you.”
Stephanie Snow is also asking ‘Where`s the money?’ She explained why she’s trying to raise funds, “My daughter was diagnosed a couple years ago with a very rare disorder.”
7-year-old Raquel has Wolfram Syndrome, a degenerative form of Diabetes. Snow raises money through her Jack and J.T. Snow foundation. Her father Jack Snow was a rams wide receiver and her brother J.T. Snow won 6 gold gloves playing first base, mostly with the S.F. Giants. Before the IRS gave Snow non profit status, she reached out to Athletes and Entertainers.
Snow said, “I`m grateful for using their 501c3. That and I`m grateful that they did a great job at handling our registration, but where`s our money?”
About $40,000 is now under dispute after the latest Casino Night fundraiser. Athletes and Entertainers says it can account for the money. The non-profit`s most vocal defender is sports broadcaster and board member Howard Balzer. He gave me a breakdown showing ‘overhead’ expenses like ‘$15,000′ for ‘director consulting allocation.’
Craig Wicker used to do contract work for Athletes and Entertainers. He doesn`t buy it.
Wicker said, “I do know that these guys were burned ok.”
wicker said Stephanie Snow did all the work. Wicker added that Snow, “doesn`t need an outside organization to run her event. She did it. She did it all. She got the players there.”
I couldn`t get answers from the Athletes and Entertainers Chesterfield location because it`s what`s called a `virtual office.` Executive Director Cindi Mainer moved to Tampa. Board member Howard Balzer spoke.
I asked, “What did you do to help them raise money?”
Howard Balzer responded, “Ha ha, I just told you. I just told you what we did. We helped them run events. We helped them secure auction items. They did a lot of it themselves, obviously.”
Hayes: “What did you secure?”
Balzer: “Specifics? We just, there were 7 events that occurred.”
Hayes: “Give me one item.”
Balzer: “One item?”
Hayes: “That you secured.”
Balzer: “Ha ha.”
Hayes: “Craig Wicker said you didn`t do anything.”
Balzer: “Well they`re saying a lot of things we didn`t do. that`s what we`ve heard all along that we didn`t do anything.”
Hayes: “So tell me what you did.”
Balzer: “I just told you what we did.”
Hayes: “Give me one item you secured.”
Balzer: “I don’t remember.”
Snow says she agreed to pay Athletes and Entertainers nearly $25,000 in fees for handling registration, but she says no one will sit down and explain the added overhead expenses.
Hayes asked, “Why not have the Board meet with the Jack and J.T. Snow Foundation?”
Balzer: “Ha, well we we gave them all the information.”
Balzer told me he didn`t think anybody else had a complaint. I told him about the Coldons and handed him a printout from his non-profit`s Web site solicitation. Balzer responded, “I`m aware of.. you… you know… ha. I told you all I know about that.”
Hayes: “So you know that your organization solicited funds on behalf of Phoenix Coldon.”
Balzer: “I`m not sure a lot of the specifics.”
Director Cindi Mainer followed up with an e-mail saying Athletes and Entertainers only received one $25 donation for the Coldons.
Mainer also gave a list of 64 items she said her non-profit secured for events going back 17 months. When I pressed her for details about the 2012 Casino Night (the only event the Snowfund disputes), she sent another e-mail saying the Snows secured those items by paying outside contractors.
Mainer is also sending out news releases in defense of Athletes and Entertainers saying “(We) remain confident in our position and our charitable work. (My husband) and I invested more than $30,000 of our own money.”
We`ll continue to follow up.