Report: Angel Food Ministries’ fraud case held up by mountainous paperwork

A Georgia newspaper reports that the federal government’s case against the leaders of

Angel Food Ministries founders Joe Wingo, left, and Linda Wingo, center, walk to their car after a meeting in York in February 2009 to address a report on their high salaries and other questions about the nonprofit.

Angel Food Ministries, a nonprofit that used to operate several sites in York County, has been delayed because of massive amounts of paperwork.

Members of the family that created the nonprofit face fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and other charges. The Athens Banner-Herald quotes a defense motion saying that the pretrial discovery in the case will be more than the equivalent of 60 million Word documents.

A judge granted a request to extend the deadline to argue pretrial motions to Dec. 31, the newspaper reported.

In January 2009, the York Daily Record/Sunday News broke the story nationally that the nonprofit was paying its leaders millions in salary and loaning money to the family who founded it. From that story, reported and written by Melissa Nann Burke:

CEO Wesley Joseph Wingo, a church pastor known as Joe, got a pay increase from $69,598 in 2005 to $588,529 in 2006.

Wingo’s wife and the couple’s two sons saw similar boosts in pay, although the next year the family’s compensation fell closer to 2005 levels.

Family members also borrowed money from AFM. At the end of 2007, the Wingos owed a balance of nearly $1.1 million on loans from the Good Hope, Ga.-based charity, according to the latest-available tax records.

Charity watchdogs said the high salaries and loans raise the question of whether some of Angel Food’s earnings are being used to benefit insiders instead of for a charitable purpose.

Dan Busby, an accountant and acting president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, looked at AFM’s 2006 tax documents and noted the compensation and loans. His group emphasizes the importance of financial accountability, transparency and sound board governance at Christian nonprofit organizations.

“For a nonprofit that emphasizes helping the poor to take $2.5 million in executive and family compensation that is 12.5 percent of (that year’s spending) for what appears to be insider salaries — and to loan $700,000 to insiders in the same year — is extraordinary,” Busby said.

“The public would generally look askance at such practices.”

The nonprofit was later sued by its own board members, investigated by the federal government and eventually went out of business.

About Scott Blanchard

Sunday editor at the York (Pa.) Daily Record/Sunday News. Follow me on Twitter and Google+.
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