The founder of Gateway to a Cure has been indicted on 22 counts of mail fraud by a federal grand jury.
Lou Sengheiser is accused of using money raised by the charity to credit card expenses, buy vehicles and make home mortgage payments.
According to the indictment, from January 1, 2002 through May of 2006, Gateway solicited most of its money through raffles operated by Sengheiser. Almost $2 million was raised through four raffles, but less than $40,000 was actually donated for spinal cord injury research. If convicted, each mail fraud count carries a maximum penalty of twenty years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000. Restitution is mandatory
Gateway to a Cure, 152 Lemay Ferry Road, was founded by Sengheiser in 1996, two years after his son, Jason, suffered a spinal cord injury.
The organization advertised that it raised money for spinal cord research.
Prizes through raffles included million dollar homes, luxury Motor vehicles, jewelry, motorcycles, a grand piano, a grandfather clock and a Caribbean cruise. The raffle tickets were purchased for as much as $1,000 and as low as $20.
“People bought these raffle tickets in good faith, thinking they had a chance at great prizes, and were donating to a worthy cause. Instead not only were the raffles a scam, the money was being diverted for other uses,” said U.S. Attorney Catherine L. Hanaway.
B. Bernard Ferguson, postal inspector in cCharge for St. Louis said, “Charity fraud results in two sets of victims: those who thought they were contributing to a worthy cause, and those for whom the donations were intended. Schemes like this cause people to think twice before donating, and we hope this investigation helps restore faith in legitimate charities.”
By Todd Smith