A Grant Scam in Buffalo Has Painful Consequences for Local Nonprofits

By Security and Exchange commission, U.S. Federal Govt. This vector version by Mysid [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

March 15, 2018; Buffalo News

Christina Sanford Gordon had a thriving Buffalo-based business as a grantwriter and fundraiser extraordinaire…at least for a while, says New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is prosecuting Gordon for scamming more than 30 community organizations and churches out of around $200,000. Not only did she take her fees, she also told the organizations that they had won the grants applied for—a fine short-term strategy, perhaps, but one that was bound to run into a wall pretty quickly.

It may not have been quickly enough; on the basis of communications with a fictitious state grant administrator named Sylvia Gregory saying they had won a $500,000 capital rehab award, one church actually began to tear off their roof only to find that there was no grant application or award. Another made $345,000 in expenditures to prepare for receiving a grant. “Gregory” would also communicate the steps that the grantees had to take to receive the grants and the reasons why those grants were inevitably delayed. Even Schneiderman was taken aback. “Who would think you’d make up a grant administrator?” he said.

The attorney general acknowledged the remarkable depth and elaborate nature of the scam, complete with award letters—including one from the attorney general’s office. “She was very, very adept at getting word out there,” he said, but “it was not a great long-term strategy. Sooner or later, people realized they’re not getting the money.”

Seven felony counts and a civil lawsuit have been brought against Gordon, whose assets have been frozen in anticipation of restitution efforts, but according to this report, she has only been out of prison since last year and has spent a lot on cruises and luxury items, so there may be little left to recover.—Ruth McCambridge