• Dennis McCaslin

Sequoyah County officials looking into alleged theft from Fort Smith non-profit Pay it Forward

Law enforcement officials in Sequoyah County are looking into the possible theft and embezzlement of donated food to a Fort Smith charity by a Muldrow resident who was on the Board of Directors of the charity.

Documents provided by one of the vendors for Pay it Forward Fort Smith indicates that 27 cases off chicken products donated in the name of the charity never made it to the organization. The missing product included two types of donated chicken that didn't make it to the organization at all as well as various other cases missing from the product that did eventually make it's way to the charity.

It has also been determined that 36 pounds of snack cakes picked up from a vendor in Gentry also never made it to Pay it Forward.

Members of the organization met with a deputy from Sequoyah County on Monday. Although the charity is located in Fort Smith and the product was picked up in Siloam Springs, Sequoyah County has jursidiction because it is suspected that is where the pilfered donations are being store.

The suspect was on the Facebook Marketplace as late as Saturday looking to buy or have freezers donated to his "cause".

"We discovered the discrepancies when the former board member balked at providing us with invoices for the product," said Darla Lackey, founder and president of Pay It Forward. "We checked with the vendors and they provided us with the invoices that shows a big difference in what was picked up and what was delivered to Pay it Forward Fort Smith."

Lackey said when the man was confronted he denied the allegations but immediately "resigned" from the organization. He also reached out to other Board members in an effort to seemingly cover his tracks.

"I am deeply wounded by what we can only describe as a betrayal of our trust and confidence," said Lackey. "Other members of the organization had misgivings about the involvement of the man and his son, and everything they said from the beginning is turning out to be true."

"This is especially hurtful after the salacious claims made against us by a former board member that I had taken money from the non-profit for my personal use," said Lackey. "We lost many donors and donations because of that, and we were just starting to get back on our feet again."

"We are not perfect, but we are trying to get the Board and volunteers in place so we can fulfill our mission, which is to help the needy," said Lackey. "

On Monday, Pay it Fort Smith delivered "Blessing Boxes" to more than twenty-five elderly resident in Fort Smith, Van Buren and Greenwood. That effort came on the heels of a "drive-thru" Blessing Bag event last week in which hundreds of families received food from the organization.

"We are an organic, grassroots organization and we don't get grants or big donations like some of the other organizations that have paid staffs and gigantic warehouses," said Lackey. "In fact, the bulk of what we have done in the past two months have come out of the pockets of Board members and volunteers."

Lackey she is contacting all the vendors the suspect had contact with in the name of Pay it Forward in an effort to see if any more product may have been sidetracked.

"We love, trust and try to help everyone," said Lackey. "Even those that try and do us harm. We just feel betrayed, especially considering this individual held himself out to be a 'minister'."

"It's just another setback," said Lackey. "We're kind of getting used to them."

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