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Tuesday, April 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Judge Shuts Down United Homeless Organization

(CN) - A judge on Tuesday shut down the United Homeless Organization, a Manhattan-based nonprofit that state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo accused of pocketing donations for the homeless.

"Today's court order prevents UHO from further exploiting the trust and good will of New Yorkers," Cuomo said in a statement. "But this organization's bad behavior shouldn't undermine the public's willingness to donate to legitimate charities. As my office continues to aggressively monitor the activities of UHO and other charities, New Yorkers should feel even more confident in giving this holiday season."

Justice Barbara Kapnick of New York Supreme Court halted all charitable solicitations and froze the organization's assets, including bank accounts and vehicles.

In a lawsuit filed last month, Cuomo accused UHO founder Stephen Riley and director Myra Walker of using the organization as a front for making money.

UHO workers allegedly paid Riley and Walker $15 to use the group's tables and materials. They then solicited cash donations that would purportedly be used to fund homeless services, but was actually pocketed by the workers, Cuomo claimed.

Riley and Walker kept the table fees, which they used to pay their own living and travel expenses, such as restaurant meals, premium cable TV service, and purchases from the Home Shopping Network and Weight Watchers' Web site, according to the lawsuit. Riley allegedly misappropriated the organization's assets, including four UHO vehicles that he transferred to his name.

Cuomo said his investigation revealed that UHO doesn't operate any shelters, soup kitchens or food pantries; doesn't buy food or clothing for the homeless; and doesn't provide any services for the homeless community.

UHO also keeps no records of the donations collected or pocketed and can't account for more than 50 percent of the cash withdrawn from its bank account in 2007 and 2008, the lawsuit claimed.

The next court date is scheduled for Jan. 11.

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