Recently filed documents in the Forsyth County Superior Court allege that at least $130,000 in charitable donations may have been embezzled by a Forsyth County woman who used her “position of trust” within a local charity to divert funds meant to help sick and dying children for her own personal use.
Allegations outlined in the lawsuit Kingdom Kids Charity Inc. v. Jodi Ford, state that over an unknown time period Jodi Ford, a volunteer employee of Kingdom Kids Charity and wife of the organization’s CEO, Kevin Ford, used the charity funds for personal expenses including purchases on Amazon.com, utility payments and personal debts.
Jodi Ford strongly denied those claims to the Forsyth County News as part of an effort to publicly humiliate and intimidate her during an ongoing divorce case between her and her husband, Kevin Ford.
Kingdom Kids Charity Inc., according to the complaint, is a Forsyth County-based non-profit corporation that was started in 2009 to “improve the quality of life for children facing challenging circumstances.”
The complaint states that Kingdom Kids Charity’s primary event was the well-known annual fundraiser Lily’s Run, which was started in 2009 to support Lily Anderson, who had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer at the age of 8.
Anderson succumbed to her battle with cancer in 2012 at the age of 11, but her memory has lived on in the annual event, drawing thousands of people and donations each year to help grant wishes to sick and hospitalized children.
In her role as a volunteer employee at the charity, Ford reportedly handled “wish fulfillment” for the organization, working with families in the community, coordinating all trips and wishes granted by the organization and handling payments for the organization.
“On or around May 15, 2019, [Kingdom Kids Charity Inc.’s] Chief Executive Officer, Kevin Ford, began an audit of [Jodi Ford’s] work when it was brought to his attention that he should review the [organization’s] accounts and recent transactions,” the complaint states. “Mr. Ford noticed numerous discrepancies in the bank statements, credit card statements and operating account.”
The complaint states that after these discrepancies were discovered by the organization, Jodi Ford allegedly admitted to Kevin Ford and others that she had appropriated “some assets and funds of Kingdom Kids to her own personal use” but “greatly” minimized her actions and conversions of the assets.
Jodi Ford was fired from the organization and ordered to pay back the funds, but according to the complaint, she has refused to cooperate with the organization when asked for financial statements and other disclosures.
“[Jodi Ford’s] conversion of [Kingdom Kid’s] property … was malicious and in bad faith,” the complaint states. “[She] knew that the property belonged to [Kingdom Kids] and was to be used to grant wishes for ill or dying children.”
In a statement to the FCN, Ford denied that she ever intentionally took any money from the charity for her own personal use and in light of the allegations she would be hiring a third party to examine the charity's financial records.
"Not being an accountant and doing a poor job of keeping the books, I never intentionally took a penny from the charity," Jodi Ford said. "If there is any such unintentional co-mingling of any money, I will reimburse the charity any such amount, and with sincere apologies."
Ford went on to allege that it was, in fact, Kevin Ford that had taken money from the charity, claiming that in his role as CEO of Kingdom Kids her husband had transferred money from the charity to another organization, How I Give Back, "a donation-based crowdfunding platform that fulfills wishes" which he is also in charge of.
On Friday, Forsyth County Sheriff's Office spokesman Cpl. Doug Rainwater told the FCN that investigators had been alerted to the allegations made against Jodi Ford, but the case had been moved to an "inactive" status because the alleged victim, Kevin Ford, had declined to press charges or provide them with any evidence of wrongdoing.
The complaint also states that beyond the monetary losses the organization suffered, its reputation and trust in the community has been irreparably been harmed by the incident.
Attorney Logan Butler, who will represent Kingdom Kids in the lawsuit, said in a statement to the FCN that until the matter is settled all of the organization’s fundraising will be halted, including Lily’s Run, which was held each year on the second Sunday in October.
“As soon as this event is behind all of us, Kingdom Kids looks forward to continuing its fundraising,” Butler said. “Kingdom Kids strives to move forward as an organization with transparency, honesty and integrity.”
Even though Lily’s Run has been canceled in the wake of these allegations, those close to the Anderson family say that they aren’t going to let it affect their mission to help sick children.
According to Sandi Staiti, a longtime volunteer and friend of the Anderson family, this year the Anderson family and their group of devoted volunteers will be focusing their whole attention on Lily’s Annual Night of Glitter and Gifts, a separate annual charity fundraiser held in December that is unaffiliated with Kingdom Kids.
"While we are devastated by this information, our sole focus is to channel all of our energy now into Lily's toy drive and make it bigger, better, stronger, to honor Lily," Staiti said. "Lily's Toys brings so much joy, and we want to focus on something that is going to bring tangible joy."
This lawsuit will be presided over by Superior Court Judge David L. Dickinson.