LI family accused in cancer charity scam

April 14, 2010 9:41:44 PM PDT
For the last twenty years, social worker Sandy Kafenbaum has been linking breast cancer patients with charities that can help them.

So when Sandy received a bill from the Coalition for Breast Cancer Cures, she was suspicious.

"I never heard of it. My colleagues never heard of it. They didn't have a phone number or website," she said.

Sandy complained to the Attorney General's office. Five members of the Winston family of Great Neck, Long Island are now charged with collecting 500-thousand dollars for a bogus charity that never helped anyone.

Eyewitness News reporter Josh Einiger tracked down Mindy Winston at her home. She denied any wrongdoing.

Investigators say the Winstons spent almost 8000 dollars in breast cancer donations at stores like Louis Vuitton, Victoria's Secret and even Home Depot and Costco.

The Winstons apparently sent out thousands of letters like one titled an 'official invoice and receipt,' telling the recipient that he or she had already pledged, say 25 dollars back in April of 2009.

The "charity's" director writes in her solicitation letters, "We can only flourish with your continued generous contributions."

The phony bills apparently worked. One victim wrote a 153-dollar check 'in memory of' a breast cancer victim.

"It's unconscionable that people would prey on people's emotions because everyone is worried about breast cancer," Sandy said.

Investigators say that instead of giving the money to patients or researchers, the Winstons blew it on lavish dinners at Peter Lugar Steakhouse, fancy hotel stays, and spring break vacations.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has sued to shut down the Coalition for Breast Cancer Cures, and has demanded that the Winstons pay back the money they are accused of stealing.