Raoul sues Lombard veterans charity over use of funds; founders say 'we ain't going anywhere'
Founders say, 'We ain't going anywhere'
Founders of a Lombard-based charity that pledged to help returning veterans get back on their feet are being sued in Cook County by Attorney General Kwame Raoul, who is alleging they misappropriated more than $10,000 from the charity.
Priscilla and Todd Olshefski created the Veterans Christian Network Inc. in March 2018 and failed to register with the attorney general's office as required by law and failed to file the statutorily required reports accounting for the organization's charitable activities, according to the lawsuit.
An investigation by Raoul's office found that it was unclear whether any of the $28,000 collected and deposited into an organizational bank account controlled by the Olshefskis was used for programs benefiting veterans.
The Olshefskis say they have helped veterans with vehicle and medical expenses and are on the verge of launching a "Tiny Homes Community Project" to give homeless veterans and their families a place to live.
"The defendants took advantage of people who thought their donations would support the men and women who serve our country," Raoul said. "I filed this lawsuit to ensure that the operators of VCN are held accountable for stealing funding intended for veterans -- and using it for their own purposes."
The lawsuit alleges that the Olshefskis withdrew at least $10,000 and spent it on items unrelated to the organization.
"That $10,000 that is so-called misappropriated, that is me and my wife's money that we loaned to the organization and that was put toward opening up the office, buying furniture, wall panels and things for the office," Todd Olshefski, 50, said Tuesday. "If the attorney general is saying we misappropriated, I'm sorry. That's a flat-out lie. I can do what I want with my money."
Based on his own calculations, Todd Olshefski said he believes the organization actually owes him and his wife more than $30,000 of their life savings.
Raoul also said Todd Olshefski has a criminal history involving fraud or theft.
"He's demonizing my husband because of his criminal background," Priscilla Olshefski, 60, said. "He had written a few bad checks. He paid for that. He went to court for that and he went to jail for that and we've paid all of that back."
The lawsuit seeks to remove Todd and Priscilla Olshefski from the organization's operations and to ban each of its directors from managing future charitable activities.
"This ... is messing with the wrong ... people. We're ... fighters," Priscilla said. "We ain't going anywhere. We're fighting to the end. Over my dead body, baby."
The attorney general's office is also seeking a full accounting of the charity's funds, including all funds from which the Olshefskis withdrew cash or used on expenses unrelated to the organization's mission. Additionally, Raoul is asking the court to hold them liable for all misused monies or for which they are unable to account.
"Our directors are on us like white on rice to make sure we run legitimate," Todd Olshefski said. "They can see whatever they want, and we'll win."
Deputy Bureau Chief Barry Goldberg, Senior Assistant Attorney General Kristin Louis and Assistant Attorney General Pooja Shah are handling the case for Raoul's Charitable Trust Bureau.
Todd Olshefski said he expects the couple will be hiring a lawyer within the next few weeks to a month.