NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A former leader of a cancer charity was sentenced to four years in prison after embezzling more than $3.7 million from the T.J. Martel Foundation for Cancer Research.
Melissa Goodwin, 56, was the Executive Vice President and General Manager of the T.J. Martel Foundation.
She was charged with wire fraud in January and pleaded guilty in February to devising and operating a scheme to defraud the foundation by purchasing approximately $3.96 million in tickets from online ticket vendors Ticketmaster, Stubhub, Primesport, and On-Location, using a foundation credit card she had obtained in her own name.
These tickets were not for a legitimate foundation purposes and included tickets to musical events, such as Lady Gaga and Celine Dion concerts, and sporting events, such as Super Bowl LIV.
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Goodwin provided these tickets to an individual in New York City who owned and operated a charity auction business. This business conducted auctions for clients, offering consignment items such as event tickets and sports memorabilia to the clients for use in their auctions. As part of the scheme, Goodwin led this individual to believe that she had acquired the tickets at no cost or at a discounted rate. Goodwin also used the Foundation’s credit card to purchase other items that were not for legitimate foundation purposes, such as expensive and rare alcohols, plane tickets and hotel stays. She then used the foundation’s bank accounts to pay the credit card charges.
In order to conceal the ticket purchases, Goodwin provided falsified credit card statements and false expense reports to the foundation’s accounting firm. Goodwin falsified the credit card statements by altering them to conceal the ticket purchases, as well as other expenses. She often replaced the name of the actual vendor with the name of a different vendor so that the charges appeared to be legitimate foundation expenses. In total, Goodwin concealed over $3 million in fraudulent credit card expenses, according to U.S. Attorney Mark H. Wildasin for the Middle District of Tennessee.
The Foundation’s accounting firm prepared the foundation’s periodic financial statements based on these falsified credit card statements and expense reports. The accounting firm then emailed those statements to Goodwin, whose job it was to provide them to the foundation’s CEO.
However, before providing them to the CEO, Goodwin falsified those financial statements by inflating the Foundation’s assets and lowering its liabilities to make the Foundation appear to be more liquid than it was at the time. These falsifications prevented the foundation from detecting Goodwin’s fraudulent transactions.
In addition to falsifying the credit card statements and financial statements, Goodwin forged the signature of the foundation’s CEO on six checks totaling $966,275.78 that were not approved by the foundation.
U.S. District Judge William L. Campbell, Jr., also ordered Goodwin to pay $3,949,800.70 in restitution.