Washington state sues fake breast cancer charity; wins $500,000

SEATTLE  — A court found that a bogus charity took millions of dollars from Washington residents who thought they were helping fight breast cancer.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson's office began investigating the Breast Cancer Prevention Fund in 2011 after receiving complaints the organization was misleading donors into believing their donations were funding mammograms for uninsured and under-insured women.

Ferguson's office took the charity and its board president, James Paton, to court, uncovering that 80 percent of the $22 million charity went to fund Paton's own telemarketing company; plus, an additional $8.5 million went directly into Paton's pocket.

Ferguson says his office was able to recover $1.6 million. He says about $500,000 will be for Washington and two other states will split the difference.

“We all benefit when every woman has access to free breast cancer screenings,” said Ferguson. “This sham charity took advantage of Washingtonians who thought they were providing potentially life-saving screenings for women in need. This money will help fulfill that broken promise.”

Ferguson's office announced Monday it will donate the $500,000 to the Department of Health to provide breast cancer screenings.