Americans eager to give after the 9/1 1 terrorist attacks poured $1.5 billion into hundreds of charities established to serve the victims, their families and their memories. But a decade later, an Associated Press investigation shows that many of those nonprofits have failed miserably.
There are those that spent huge sums on themselves, those that cannot account for the money they received, those that have few results to show for their spending and those that have yet to file required income tax returns. Yet many of them continue to raise money in the name of Sept. 11 victims.
One charity raised more than $700,000 for a giant memorial quilt, but there is no quilt. Another raised more than $4 million to help victims but didn't account publicly for how it spent all of the money. And another helps support a 9/1 1 flag sold by the founder's for-profit company. There are other charities that can account for practically every penny raised -- except that all the money went to pay for fundraising and not the intended mission.
Most of the 325 charities identified by the AP followed the rules, accounted fully for their expenditures and closed after fulfilling identified goals.
There have been charities to assist ill and dying first responders, to help families of the dead, to help survivors and to honor the memory of victims. And there are charities that revolve around the flag, patriotism, motorcycle rallies and memorials of all sizes and shapes.
But in virtually every category of 9/1 1 nonprofit, an AP analysis of tax documents and other official records uncovered schemes beset with shady dealings, questionable expenses and dubious intentions. Many of those still raising money are small, founded by people with no experience running a nonprofit.
*There's a charity for a 9/1 1 Garden of Forgiveness at the World Trade Center site, but there's no Garden of Forgiveness. The Rev. Lyndon Harris, who founded the Sacred City nonprofit in 2005, spent the months following 9/1 1 at ground zero helping victims, relatives and first responders. He said he formed the charity to fulfill "our sacred oath" to build the garden. Tax records show the charity has raised $200,000 and that the Episcopal priest paid himself $126,530 in salary and used another $3,562 for dining expenses between 2005 and 2007.
*The Flag of Honor Fund, a Connecticut charity, raised nearly $140,000 to promote a memorial flag honoring 9/1 1 victims. The flag, which contains the name of every person killed on Sept. 11, 2001, is on sale at Walmart and other retail stores. But only a tiny fraction of the money from those sales goes to 9/1 1 charities, with most going to retail stores, the flag maker and a for-profit business run by the man who created the flag charity.