Fraud Probe On Typhoon Haiyan Donations In Chicago

CHICAGO (JGL) – Was the money collected for victims of super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) one year ago on Saturday, Nov. 8, used to buy tickets for the Pacquiao-Bradley fight last April in Las Vegas, Nevada?

The office of newly-reelected Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan will find this out as it opened Thursday (Nov. 6) a charitable and a consumer fraud investigation into the nearly $20,000 cash and the thousands of tons of donated goods collected last year at the Rizal Center in the north side of Chicago for victims of super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) that devastated the Philippines.

Mike Matulis, Madigan’s Director of Constituents Services, told one of the volunteers who blew the whistle on the money and merchandise donations drive that he had forwarded the letter complaint “to our Charitable Trusts Bureau for review.”

According to the complaint, during the massive relief operation dubbed “Help For Haiyan Chicago” a year ago, the Filipino American Council of Chicago (FACC) and the Rizal Center raised thousands of dollars besides tons of relief goods.   After all the goods were shipped out, and most of the money distributed to various charities in the islands helping the victims, there was $10,000 cash balance that they wanted to give directly to people on the ground.

A woman named Angela C. Arevalo-Eads stepped forward to help.  She is a Chicagoland area local concert/events promoter (www.diamondsproduction.com) and a resident of Beach Park, Illinois.

During a meeting in February this year, Arevalo-Eads had told the FACC she was already going to the Philippines to distribute money she raised at her own fundraiser in December. She said she had already planned the trip, bought her tickets, and arranged her itinerary to visit the typhoon-ravaged regions of the Central Philippines. She made that statement in front of about 20 FACC board members at the meeting. Because they had accepted her statements to be truthful, they agreed to entrust her with the $10,000.

In early March, she left for the Philippines with a complete understanding that she was to distribute the funds to projects to help the victims… something that the donors had asked the FACC do when they contributed money during the relief drive. Everyone who gave to the FACC during the relief drive said they did so because they believed that their money would go directly to the victims.

The money to be used to buy roofing and building materials… and food for the Typhoon victims. Arevalo-Eads was also going to meet up with seven arriving containers packed with tons of relief goods that were collected at the Rizal Center in the week after the Typhoon hit.

The U.S. Department of Defense had shipped the containers.

Besides distributing the funds, Arevalo-Eads  was also to arrange the transport of three of the containers to the typhoon-ravaged islands of Panay, Samar and Leyte. Four of the seven containers were going to be distributed by a designated and respected Philippine charity named Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. (RAFI) on the Island of Cebu where the containers had arrived by sea freight.

When she left for the Philippines, Arevalo-Eads knew she was to bring back receipts and supporting documents to show that the goods were properly distributed and the funds given to the victims.   When she arrived a month later in early April, she was not forthcoming with the receipts and documentation, according to the complaint.

While Arevalo-Eads was in the Philippines, and throughout the following weeks during, and after, her return to Chicago, she was asked verbally, and through email, to produce the receipts and documentation. Arevalo-Eads would always employ delaying tactics saying that she was going to Las Vegas, Nevada to watch the Pacquiao fight, that she was busy, or that she was sick.

On April 29th, Arevalo-Eads was compelled to attend a town hall community meeting in part because she wanted to promote her concert/show slated for July 25.  Hours before the meeting, she produced a spreadsheet that included spending that was not part of what she was entrusted to do with the donated money. Arevalo-Ead’s spreadsheet included her airfare to Hongkong although she had told the FACC in February that she already bought her tickets.

Her accounting also included hotels. Again, she said she had already arranged for her own lodging as part of her own plans. There’s also $3,000 of additional money that was not part of the spreadsheet, which she said, she still had, but did not hand over. Instead of handing over those additional funds, Arevalo-Eads conveniently left for the Philippines the following day.

During the month of May, the organizers had reached out to Arevalo-Eads and her husband Joseph Eads repeatedly by email to secure the remaining $3,000 and turn it over to the FACC. They ignored the request, only to say that she would settle the matter when she returned at the end of May.

When Arevalo-Eads returned to the Chicago area at the end of May, she failed to return the remaining $3,000 or produce any receipts or documents supporting how she distributed the donated money.

The letter complaint said, “We believe she may have diverted the funds for a concert she was planning to hold at the Copernicus Center on July 25.” She eventually canceled the event. Arevalo had told an organizer (Rose Tibayan) that she wanted to use the leftover $3,000 for her event… and would repay the FACC. But Rose said “NO. The money was for the victims of the typhoon. The people who donated it wanted it so… and not to support Arevalo-Ead’s personal project. She may have also used part of the $10,000 to settle a lawsuit where she was sued for more than $7,000, and compelled by the court to pay the plaintiff.”

When reached for comment by this reporter, Arevalo-Eads said the financial report she gave to Tibayan “was not yet complete. I already completed it but I will submit it to FACC President Rufino Crisostomo, who will distribute it to the media during a press conference.” At press time, Dr. Crisostomo has yet to announce the scheduled press conference.

The complaint also disclosed that two of the four original organizers – Ron Vergara and Ray Borja – had announced that during the massive relief efforts that a cargo plane (C130) was set to pick up the goods at the Rizal Center and take them to the Philippines. “It would turn out that the cargo plane didn’t exist.” The author of the complaint said, providing Attorney General Madigan video link where Vergara was being questioned by WGN about the cargo plane and Vergara “tap danced around the question:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykVnMSj34bU

The letter said the complainant found out Vergara was the focus of an Illinois Secretary of State Fraud complaint.

With no cargo plane in sight, the organizers tapped the Department of Defense, which helped in shipping seven containers to the Philippines.

Reached for comment, Vergara insisted he was assured by a military contractor Steve Finney of the Wildfire Protection System that a plane was coming. “I have text messages to show for this.” The email address Vergara gave this reporter returned undelivered. He promised to provide this reporter another contact information but failed to make good his promise.

Vergara also said, “What happened with me in my past during the real estate by [PalMall 1.2″market crashDescription: https://cdncache1-a.akamaihd.net/items/it/img/arrow-10×10.png] was put on me because I was the main partner in the company and I took the fall for my partners who left me with lawsuits. There are always two sides to every story. But my past has nothing to do with what happened with ‘Help For Haiyan Chicago.’”

 

 

 

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