The Attorney General’s Office says it has recovered more than $39,000 of money donated to help Joplin recover from the May, 2011 tornado, but used by a fundraiser for personal expenses.
Attorney General Chris Koster says Sidney Ray-Bazan agreed to pay $39,200 to the Community Foundation of the Ozarks for rebuilding efforts in Joplin. His office’s investigation revealed that she had taken a large portion of the $133,000 she collected as the owner of Relief Spark.
“The money was diverted by an unscrupulous fundraiser from donations intended to help tornado victims, but was instead diverted for her personal use,” says Koster.
He says Ray-Bazan spent that money on things including meals at restaurants, coffee shops, upscale children’s clothing boutiques, veterinary offices, grocery stores and her children’s babysitter.
Koster says the check will be turned over to Rebuild Joplin, a non-profit agency dedicated to the Joplin rebuilding effort.
Ray-Bazan also agreed not to solicit funds for any charitable purpose in Missouri for five years.
“I felt that the just thing to do was simply to make things right, put things back where they should have been,” says Koster, “So we’re going to close the prosecution at this point.”
The agreement is subject to court approval.
Joe Lancello, KZRG in Joplin contributed to this report