The Love Holds Life Scam: Donors Beware
If you live in the Hudson Valley region of New York, you may have come across someone at a grocery store or gas station soliciting contributions for local children suffering from cancer. They may have worn a seemingly official ID badge around their necks and probably stood close to a table covered by a blue cloth emblazoned with the name Love Holds Life. Maybe you stopped and offered a contribution or maybe you continued on to your car. In either case, you were probably a little skeptical as to whether the money they were collecting was really going to the sick local children they claimed to sponsor.
You were right to be skeptical. While Love Holds Life is a licensed and registered charity, the organization is little more than a cleverly devised business front for lifelong con artist Richard Senato. Due to long-neglected loopholes in non-profit law, Mr. Senato has been able to use the charity’s money to fund his lavish lifestyle. He has paid for his high-end condo in Tarrytown, his winter furloughs in Spain, and his 3 cars, including a new luxury Mercedes, using money donated to Love Holds Life.
If you’re wondering how Mr. Senato has gotten away with all this, the answer is that technically, he hasn’t done anything illegal….at least not to anyone’s current knowledge. What Mr. Senato has done is masterfully game a system that provides little oversight or regulation on how nonprofits spend their money. Since he is the only full-time employee, Mr. Senato has been able to write off his mortgage, multiple car loans, vacations, car insurance, phone bill, gas, and even food as organizational expenses.
How do I know all this? I briefly served as the Development Director for Love Holds Life. After seeing firsthand the charity’s finances, I felt ethically bound to resign. Mr. Senato may be able to deflect scrutiny with his smokescreen of lies, but the cold hard numbers in Love Holds Life's tax returns don't lie.
A Closer Look at Love Holds Life's Tax Information
This is a copy of the organization’s expense sheet from Love Holds Life’s 2016 Form 990. This information is publicly available since Love Holds Life is a public “charity.” This is a copy of the organization’s expense sheet from Love Hold’s Life’s 2016 Form 990. This information is publicly available since Love Holds Life is a public “charity.” You can view the information here in this PDF.
Look at section 24 E of the expense report. There was $69,569 in 2016 that was listed under “unspecified expenses.” As the former Deputy Development Director, I was able to view the finances of Love Holds Life. Those unspecified expenses were Mr. Senato’s mortgage on his Tarrytown condo, car payments, phone bill, his vacations to Spain (which included a condo rental) and his other various living expenses.
According to non-profit law, all charities and non-profit organizations must have a board of directors to act as a safeguard against abuses such as this. Mr. Senato has lined Love Holds Life's board with trusted friends and love interests who vote how he tells them. That is how he is able to write off all his living expenses under the charity.
Mr. Senato takes a salary of $40,000 which he proudly boasts about, but when you add in the $69,596 that he used to pay for his living expenses, it turns out that he profited $109,596 dollars in 2016 out of the $351,662 donated to Love Holds Life. If you refer to the above expense sheet, you will see only $84,879 was donated to the children Mr. Senato claims to sponsor.
Mr. Senato is little more than a con artist who has come up with a good scam. Next time a charity approaches you for a donation, especially a cash donation, it's important to do some research before contributing. There are a lot of unscrupulous people like Richard Senato exploiting a system that lacks much-needed oversight. I’m sure Mr. Senato will employ his best efforts to dismiss this article as the work of a disgruntled employee, but numbers don’t lie. I’m also not the only former employee of Love Holds Life that tried to expose Mr. Senato for the con artist that he is.