KINGSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — The Institute for International Sport – whose founder faces embezzlement, forgery and other charges – solicited tax deductible donations on its website for almost a year after losing its tax-exempt status, and records indicate the organization accepted contributions last month.
Dan Doyle, 65, was indicted last May on 18 counts for allegedly misusing more than $1 million that was meant for the youth sports organization that he started in 1986. Records show the Institute has received more than $7.3 million in taxpayer-funded legislative grants from the Rhode Island General Assembly since 1988. Doyle’s organization also received millions of dollars from private philanthropic organizations according to records. The Institute’s one-dollar-a-year lease for its Kingston offices with the University of Rhode Island runs through May of 2017.
According to the Internal Revenue Service, the Institute’s tax-exempt status was automatically revoked May 15, 2013 for failing to file Form 990 returns for three consecutive years. When the revocation was first reported in February by Target 12, Doyle’s attorney Mike Blanchard told us that according to Doyle, the organization “had not received any donations since the tax exempt status was revoked.”
Target 12 wanted to know why the website still provided contribution links under its “Get Involved” tab, and still stated “all contributions are tax deductible.” Even after we asked about that for our February report, the website remained unchanged.
Target 12 asked five colleagues to go online and send contributions to the Institute. Over a period of about a month, each contribution was sent through PayPal and according to the receipts, the money was accepted by the Institute. The first contribution was made on March 17 at 7:22 p.m. for $10, the second on March 24 at 10:01 a.m. for $15, the third on April 3 at 12:37 p.m. for $20, the fourth on April 11 at 11:30 a.m. for $15 and the fifth donation was also made on April 11 at 11:40 a.m. for $20. None of the contributors received notations on their receipts stating their contributions were not tax-deductible.
Doyle did not answer our emails or return our phone calls, but we did get in touch with him as he arrived recently at his Kingston office. As he was getting out of his car, we asked if his organization had received any contributions.
“No, not at all,” Doyle said. “I’ve been paying a lot of the bills myself.”
When we showed him the receipts from the April donations, he closed his car door and drove away without commenting any further. A follow-up email about the contributions that was sent to Doyle’s Administrative Assistant Lee Anne McCullough was not answered.
An IRS spokesperson would not comment on the Institute’s tax-exempt status, but did refer us to an Internet link for information about “Automatic Revocation of Exemptions.” According to link, an “organization that loses its tax-exempt status cannot receive tax-deductible contributions.”
Before our brief interview with Doyle, we checked the Institute’s website and found as of April 28, it still stated contributions were tax deductible. We sent an email to McCullough, who replied about two hours later that “there is no reference to accepting donations on our website.” We checked again, and the page of the Institute’s website that had offered links for a variety of tax deductible contributions was changed, suddenly reading “More information to come.”
Doyle founded the Institute 28 years ago, and from 1988 to 2012 the non-profit was given at least one legislative grant a year.
But of that $7.3 million in taxpayer funds, it was a 2007 legislative grant for $575,000 that prompted the investigation that led to Doyle’s indictment. That grant was supposed to cover most of the cost of building what Doyle pitched as the Center for Sports Leadership. In his grant application, Doyle promised a completion date of “no later than May 30, 2007” and proclaimed the building that would be built behind the Institute’s Kingston offices “will become the site of the foremost sports leadership program in the world.”
The exterior walls, roof and windows for the building went up without any complaints. But five years after the grant, with the interior of the building still only wood studs, a General Assembly committee asked the Office of the Auditor General to investigate how the grant was spent. As the audit was getting underway in the September of 2011, the Institute received what would turn out to be its last legislative grant on September 15, 2011 for $157,500.
The audit report released in February of 2012 indicated Doyle’s organization could account for $163,400 of the 2007 grant, leaving questions about where more than two thirds of the $575,000 went. A state police investigation was launched, and about a year later, Doyle was indicted.