Here is a brief explanation of this investigation and resultant findings, from which you can draw your own conclusions.
I began investigating the Shriners in March, 2006 after getting an email from a Shriner whistleblower who was looking for a journalist willing to listen to his allegations. It appears that he came up against a media blackout of sorts, as it took him three years to find someone willing to evaluate his allegations. It just so happened that I had finished up a three year investigation into the claims of another non profit group the month before and after checking out the whistleblower and the online analysis of Shriner tax returns done by a former IRS agent, wrote back that I was able to hit the deck running.
As an accomplished independent online journalist, I don’t have the resources of the New York Times, Newsweek or CNN; nor do I have the restrictions of corporate media.
I am this investigation’s sole researcher, writer and editor. I have come up with these story ideas on my own, gathered the documentation and identified and interviewed the appropriate sources. I then wrote, copy edited and published each article myself.
In summary, there are two Shriners non profit corporations. First is the fraternity made up of about 390,000 red Fez wearing men who drive the little cars in the parades and meet with secret handshakes at their 191 mosques or temples. Their exempt purpose is to “have fun while helping kids” as they support and operate the charitable corporation, the Shriners Hospitals for Children (SHC), a network of 22 hospitals that provides free medical care to crippled and burned children. SHC is worth about $11 billion.
This series of articles has evolved from finding evidence of temple crime, tax fraud and retaliating against those who question them in 2006 to, in 2007, advancing the shameful possibility that those holding offices of public trust may have used their positions for private gain.
Here is a list of findings to show how we got from there to here.
2006 findings describe how:
• The Shriners failed to disclose on their 990 exempt organization tax returns (990s) information about affiliations with other non profit groups such as Masons, Knights Templar, Jesters, etc.
• The Shriners failed to disclose on their 990s the misuse of charitable donations to fund multiple real estate mortgages from the Shriners Hospitals for Children to Shriner executives, officers and employees.
• The Shriners failed to disclose on their 990s a Congressional lobbyist and his activities that include working on their behalf against the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
• The Shriners failed to disclose on their 990s changes to governing documents.
• The Shriners experienced huge cash losses after an undisclosed change in governing documents.
• The Shriners fraternal described their activities to the IRS as a “lodge system that promotes brotherhood” while their by-laws filed with the state of Iowa state they oversee and control the Shriners Hospitals for Children.
• The Shriners Hospitals for Children reported different answers to the same question asked by the IRS and the State of Colorado Charitable registration unit, which is where they are incorporated.
• The Shriners network of 191 temples has been granted over 1,900 non profit Employee Identification Numbers or EINs, most of which are not required to file tax returns
• The Shriners have, for over a decade, punished and retaliated against those who question their expenditures and finances.
• The Shriners used a defamation lawsuit to silence a whistleblower and a tax analyst.
• Shriner leaders openly discussed crime, sexual harassment, advised the members to break HIPPA laws and told offensive jokes at their Treasurer’s Association meetings.
• Leaders advised the Treasurers Association to “disclose the minimum to the IRS.”
• Shriner executives prosecuted only 19% of known crimes because “they don’t want the bad press or their names in the newspapers.”
• Shriner treasurers learned of ongoing crimes at the Treasurers Association meetings, some of whom are sworn to uphold the law of the land but are expected to turn a blind eye to protect the brotherhood.
2007 findings that describe how:
• The Shriners used “kangaroo courts” to punish whistleblowers in an effort to intimidate them into silence rather than punishing the criminals. (This was also the subject of a New York Times front page article that ran on March, 19, 2007)
• The Omar Shrine temple threw out the subordinate Dorchester Shrine club’s officers, replaced them with their own “yes men” and instead of sending money to the hospitals, instead paid off the club’s mortgage.
• The Omar Temple’s potentate used the group’s newsletter for free advertising.
• The Shrine Treasurers meeting minutes were taken offline after it was discovered that ongoing crime is openly discussed at their meetings but not prosecuted.
• The Gwinnett Shrine Club raised money “for the hospitals” through illegal “Texas Hold ‘Em” tournaments without being registered as a Georgia charity and without filing tax returns.
• The Yaarab Shrine Temple failed to report the Gwinnett Shrine club’s illegal fundraising on their group tax returns.
• The Shriners used a suspended “for profit” corporation to organize and hold their annual convention.
• A secret group made up of invited Shriner leaders, The Royal Order of Jesters, was the subject of a complaint that accused them of holding drunken orgies.
• The fraternity contributed only to 0.5% or one half of one percent to the hospital’s income.
• The Shriners used their tax-exempt status to avoid paying over $450,000 in HQ property taxes.
• The Thirteenth Circuit Court of Hillsborough County, Florida, filed a motion to dismiss after the Shriners failed to do anything to “prosecute” the defamation lawsuit filed against a whistleblowers and a tax analyst.
• The Shriners used a defamation AKA SLAPP lawsuit to circumvent reporter shield laws.
• Two Shriner Hospitals for Children received FDA warning letters after pre-market inspections found that they failed to obtain informed consent, failed to report adverse effects, failed to follow protocols, and failed to keep accurate patient and device records.
• The doctor in charge of the clinical studies apparently used the non profit resources provided by both the University of Cincinnati and SHC, Cincinnati, as well as government grants, to invent and patent a burn treatment that he, thorough his own biotech start-up company, sold for $1.5 million with another $4.8 promised after regulatory approval.
• This same doctor allegedly failed to recuse himself as principal investigator after being told to do so by the Institutional Review Board overseeing his clinical study.
• A number of Shriner executive’s mortgages were repaid in unusually short times that also “randomly coincide” with the “buy low, sell high” activity of a company who has been marketing a burn treatment co-developed with SHC.
This year holds the promise of more news digging.
Thanks for being here,
Sunday, February 03, 2008
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