Celebrity Haitian relief scam

There are plenty of suggestions of where TO donate to Haitian earthquake relief.

Here is where NOT to donate:

Hip Hop artist Wyclef Jean has a "charity" which has been requesting $5 online donations to his "Yele Haiti" Foundation since the day of the earthquake.

The Washington Post reports:

"It seems clear that a significant amount of the monies that this charity raises go for costs other than providing benefits to Haitians in need," said Dean Zerbe, national managing director of Alliant Group, a tax services company, and the former tax counsel to the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees charities.

"It brings real caution for donors that want to help in Haiti that they might want to take a harder look at this organization but also consider the significant number of charities that have been doing good work in Haiti that don't have these question marks," Zerbe said.

The Smoking Gun has copies of  Wyclef Jean's "Yele Haiti" Foundation documents which show the charity was founded 12 years ago, but only filed income tax returns for the first time in August of  2009, and then only reported for the years 2005, 2006, and 2007.

"...the group paid $31,200 in rent to Platinum Sound, a Manhattan recording studio owned by Jean and Jerry Duplessis, who, like Jean, is a foundation board member...The rent, tax returns assure, "is priced below market value." The recording studio also was paid $100,000 in 2006 for the "musical performance services of Wyclef Jean at a benefit concert." That six-figure payout, the tax return noted, "was substantially less than market value." The return, of course, does not address why Jean needed to be paid to perform at his own charity's fundraiser."

Smoking Gun's review of the foundation's income tax returns show $300,000 in "consulting fees in 2005-2006 and another $255,000 in "PR and promotion" fees, not itemized or explained  further, in 2006.

Wyclef Jean was born in Haiti and has been on the island since the quake, reportedly helping to remove bodies from the rubble and holding news conferences to ask for money for his charity.  Jean's "Yele Haiti"  website claims to have raised $1.9 million since the earthquake.

Jean is one of many celebrities scheduled to appear in a televised fundraiser for Haitian relief which is organized by actor George Clooney. The show will air next Friday on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, HBO, CNN and  MTV.

Scambusters.org has suggestions on how to choose charities for donating to earthquake relief.  Symantec, the internet security service, has reported several online scams for earthquake relief.

Jane Jamison is publisher of the conservative news/commentary blog, UNCOVERAGE.net

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