ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. - Mike Stein claimed for years to house homeless families, equip disabled children with special harnesses and devote his life to helping others through his charity, Alliance for Neighbors.
And in just 15 months, he raised $64,000 from various charitable foundations to carry out his supposed good deeds.
But the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services now claims it was all a scam. It found donated money being spent with cruise lines, theme parks, resort hotels and in jewelry and lingerie stores, among other places.
Confirming much of what Local 6 first reported in October 2010, the state arrested Stein Monday at his Altamonte Springs home that doubled as the office of Alliance for Neighbors.
He is charged with 10 felonies, including forgery, identity theft and obtaining charitable contributions through "deception, false pretense and misrepresentation."
Stein, 65, was booked into the Seminole County jail Monday afternoon and is being held on $2,100 bond.
State investigator Daniel M. Shaw spent months tracing money donated to Stein's charity by individuals and foundations who were told by Stein the money would go to homeless families and disabled children.
Instead, according to Shaw's affidavit, Stein spent: $8,000 on Disney World tickets and resorts; nearly $4,000 with cruise lines; $5,200 in cash withdrawals; thousands on meals that cost up to $500 each, and thousands more on hotels, travel and entertainment in Washington, New York and Las Vegas.
Donations ranging from $100 to more than $10,000 streamed in from foundations and individuals who were told Alliance for Neighbors sheltered hundreds of would-be homeless people in "sponsored homes." The addresses of 49 such homes, provided to Winn-Dixie Stores Foundation to obtain a $1,000 grant, turned out to be vacant lots or nonexistent, Shaw found.
Other foundations giving to Stein included those controlled by the families of the late actor Christopher Reeve, sports team owners the Glazers, and shopping mall magnates the DeBartolos.
Stein claimed he founded the charity in 1972 and it now has a presence in 23 Florida counties.
In addition to claiming to provide housing in 133 foreclosed houses in Apopka for 500 people who would otherwise be homeless, Stein said his charity sponsored summer camps for hundreds of "formerly homeless physically abused disabled children."
"Those homes are owned by banks, they're foreclosed. They were abandoned," Stein said in an interview in October 2010, adding he has persuaded banks to let the families live in the homes.
The Local 6 investigation found one part of that was true.
Tax returns claim Alliance for Neighbors has 100 volunteers and has spent millions assisting "homeless/abused children with physical disabilities, spinal injury and/or special needs and battered/abused women with children."
Yet, no one in Central Florida's homeless services community has heard of such a thing - and they say they certainly would, if it were actually happening.
Nor have they heard of Mike Stein and Alliance for Neighbors, which - if it were raising and spending money as it claims - would be the most successful, privately funded charity for homeless disabled children and their families in Central Florida.
But, despite its dubious claims, Stein's charity received nearly $64,000 from some large, reputable foundations who relied on Stein's documents in doling out grants, a Local 6 investigation uncovered.
Some relied on tax returns Stein signed claiming his charity has received and spent more than $3.8 million in contributions since 2008. But when asked for certified financial statements confirming that money was received and spent as the tax returns claim, Stein balked - and his claims begin to fall apart.
He did submit one financial document to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation allegedly signed by a certified public accountant, but no CPA by that name turned up in a search of licensed accountants in Florida.
In an interview, Stein said the money has gone to "projects," including $1.5 million in capital construction expenses for a centralized housing facility for 500 people. The facility does not exist.
Asked to produce any proof of $1.5 million spent on the project, Stein provided Local 6 a crude, one-page layout. Stein said no one is being paid by Alliance for Neighbors, and has signed tax returns swearing to that, as well.
But those same returns and documents filed with the state list board members who do not exist, or whose signatures were forged by Stein, according to the charges filed Monday.
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