KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City charity is being sued Missouri’s attorney general for defrauding the people it was supposed to be helping.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of a FOX4 Problem Solvers investigation into Vinelanders Community Land Trust and its founder Alice Goodlow.
“This was a wide-ranging and long-standing scam,” Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said.
FOX4 Problem Solvers first uncovered the scam two years ago after hearing from several people who had given money to the charity, including Kristy Mitchell.
“Everybody was promised a house,” Mitchell told FOX4.
According to Vinelanders’ website, the $20 in monthly dues Mitchell and dozens of others were paying would be pooled together and eventually used to build each of them a house.
Except in the eight years of its operation, Vinelanders had yet to build a single home.
Every time Mitchell would ask about the address of a home that was supposedly in the process of being built, she said she Goodlow told her “we are not going to disclose that information at this time.”
As a Problem Solvers investigation uncovered, all the money Vinelanders collected was used to pay salaries, vendors and other operating costs of the charity –run by Goodlow and her two sons.
When Problem Solvers asked one of the sons why no houses had been built in eight years, he said people are too impatient and the charity was operating on “God’s time.”
But Missouri’s attorney general said it’s time to stop.
According to the AG’s lawsuit, Goodlow and her charity lied to and deceived its own members by failing to disclose:
- No member had received a home.
- None of the funds solicited were used to obtain a home.
- All funds were used for Vinelanders own operating expenses.
Schmitt said some people lost more than $3,000 after joining Vinelanders, making their chance of home ownership even more elusive.
“As it appears, there was really no effort to make good on those promises” the charity was making, Schmitt said.
Mitchell just wants her money back, something the lawsuit demands be repaid to every person who trusted Vinelanders’ bogus dream of homeownership.
Goodlow has yet to file a response to the lawsuit and could not be reached for comment. But in the past, she has maintained her innocence.
In fact, last summer she accused FOX4 of destroying her charity’s good name after we ran a story exposing Vinelanders questionable practices.
If you are owed money by Vinelanders, you should contact the Missouri Attorney General’s Office.
The Attorney General’s lawsuit also seeks to ban Goodlow from ever again running or participating in a charity.