Raymond Bechard’s mission seemed noble. The charity he founded claimed to serve vulnerable people -- victims of human trafficking and orphaned children with AIDS. But Attorney General Richard Blumenthal claims much of the money never went to help anyone other than Bechard himself.
Based on information Blumenthal said came from a whistleblower who was hired to work on Bechard's Web site, he has filed a lawsuit against Bechard, accusing him of pilfering up to $100,000 of $250,000 raised through Ahava Kids, Inc., an organization Bechard started in 2004 that was supposed to be a non-profit.
The Ahava Kids Web site shows sad children’s eyes and claims “your love is their last, best hope.” The plea for money says donations would help rescue victims in the United States and throughout the world.
Funds were also meant to go toward operating a hotline and safe houses, including one in Connecticut and one in Georgia, as well as to help prostitutes and to distribute AIDS medication to orphaned children in third-world countries.
However, Blumenthal said, Bechard spent it on himself and at restaurants and stores. Then there are the questionable expenses on gasoline, the ATM withdrawals and the $67,000 the charity loaned to companies Bechard owned, the suit claims.
"Claiming to help human trafficking victims and orphaned AIDS children, Raymond Bechard allegedly did more to help himself,” Blumenthal said. “Through Ahava Kids, he promises protection from human trafficking victims, opportunities for prostitutes seeking escape, and relief for orphans.”
Bechard denied the allegations and said the civil suit is misguided.
"We firmly believe that the Ahava Kids organization has done nothing wrong and any alleged financial disclosures that are alleged to be inaccurate have been rectified,” he said. “We will continue to review any claimed errors in reporting and any mistakes which are found will be corrected.”
The Ahava Kids Web site says that “at least” 90 percent of donations go toward intervention and no more than 10 percent goes to administrative work.
Blumenthal wants restitution, as well as penalties and to prevent future pilfering.
Blumenthal and the Department of Consumer Protection are also suing Bechard’s companies: Disciple Makers Workshop, Son Celebration, Gift Catalog Online and Compel Communications because, they say, he used them only for financial gain.
Bechard said it's unfortunate that the state is focusing its resources to malign a small organization that's done so much to raise awareness on the issue of human trafficking.