Gospel for Asia, one of the largest mission organizations in the United States, is now facing a lawsuit for fraud and misuse of charitable donations, which were allegedly channeled into the personal empire of the organization's leader, K.P. Yohannan.
According to a report from the Christian Post, the lawsuit was initiated in the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas by the Dallas-based Stanley Law Group
GFA, which says it is "committed to good stewardship of the funds entrusted to us by our friends and donors" on its website, faces legal action for allegedly misrepresenting to donors how, when, and where charitable donations would be spent.
The lawsuit also charges that Yohannan and a number of other GFA workers funneled vast amounts of the hundreds of millions of dollars the organization has collected into for-profit businesses and an expensive headquarters.
"K.P. Yohannan and his Gospel for Asia inner circle have been exploiting the goodwill and generosity of devout Christians around the country for years. Gospel for Asia should return all the money it's taken from donors who thought they were contributing to charity," said lead attorney Marc R. Stanley.
Matthew and Jennifer Dickson, who are listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, charge defendants with violations of RICO and the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, as well as fraud and unjust enrichment.
Listed as defendants along with Yohannan are: his wife, Gisela and his son Daniel Punnose, both members of the Board of Directors of GFA and a vice president; David Carroll, who serves GFA in multiple capacities, including Chief Financial Officer; and Pat Emerick.
According to the lawsuit, shared publicly by Patheos blogger Warren Throckmorton, "Between 2007 and 2013, GFA solicited over $450,000,000 in donations from the United States alone, where the majority of GFA's donors reside. Well over one million unique donations are made to GFA each year from tens of thousands of donors who give one time or on a recurring, sponsorship basis. However, despite repeated, explicit guarantees from GFA to donors, only a fraction of the donated money supports the people and causes for which it was donated, as Defendants redirect it for their own purposes."
The lawsuit specifically identifies certain products and causes marketed to donors such as camels, blankets, motorcycles and "Jesus Wells." While these causes succeeded in prompting donors to give money to GFA, very little of the money actually goes to the causes, the lawsuit alleges.
"GFA represents that it constructs 'Jesus Wells' to provide clean, potable water to underserved villages in India. In 2012, GFA collected more than $3.5 million in donations designated for Jesus Wells, but spent only $500,000 on that project. In 2013, GFA collected more than $4 million in donations designated for Jesus Wells, but spent only $700,000 on that project. Accepting GFA's representation that it is able to drill a well for only $1,400, in real terms, this discrepancy between donations received and money spent in India means that in 2012 GFA received funding sufficient to establish at least 2,500 wells, but its actual spending in India was sufficient to establish only 350 wells, while in 2013, GFA received funding for at least 2,800 wells, but only spent enough in India for 500 wells."
Throckmorton notes that if successful, the lawsuit could shut GFA down entirely.
In October, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, an accreditation organization created to police the financial integrity of Christian organizations, cut ties with GFA for violating five of its seven core standards. The ECFA investigation reportedly found that GFA leaders misled donors and board members about the state of the ministry's finances, and tried to withhold details about finances from ECFA.