Questions raised over charity project


Sandra Chapman/13 Investigates

Carmel - A local charity is under investigation by the Indiana Attorney General after raising thousands of dollars in donations. The main question: "Where is the money?"

The Rebirth Project of Carmel solicited funds for a new transitional housing complex for victims of domestic violence. 13 Investigates spoke to a number of major donors of this project who are pulling back.

Donors like Anderson's Hoosier Park, the Simon Property Group and Duke Realty wanted to help battered women get a new start with new housing. It was a rebirth of sorts through a self-proclaimed not-for-profit called "The Rebirth Project."

"Women that are coming out of those emergency shelters who have been there a couple of months, then can actually come into our program where they can actually rebuild their lives," said Barbara Archat, The Rebirth Project's executive director.

"We will serve all of the counties, but the location will actually be in Carmel," said Archat.

To date, there is no land, only a picture of an unspecified construction site posted on the web, and plenty of questions about the tens of thousands of dollars raised.

13 Investigates has obtained a copy of a complaint made to the Indiana Attorney General.

The donor writes, "I wanted to make a donation to the project and was told to write the check to Barbara Archat. I am concerned about the business practices of the organization."

Also at issue is the organization's 501(c)3 status. The group incorporated with the state in 2006. But at the IRS, there is no record of approval as a tax deductible organization. That puts donors at risk of filing for deductions they can't legally claim and for fraud.

"That would break my heart," said Julie Marsh, CEO of the Domestic Violence Network of Greater Indianapolis."That would break my heart if someone would do that. The funds are so needed and so necessary for those that are being abused and neglected."

The Domestic Violence Network oversees resources and best practices for its 25 member agencies. The Rebirth Project is not a part of the network. Marsh says there is a need for transitional housing, but it's critical organizations have open records.

"What were your revenues last year, how did you spend that money, what percentage was spent on personnel as opposed to what went to program?" Marsh said.

According to the complaint, Archat has failed to provide that.

"If they're asked, they're required to give out these forms - legally required to," said Robert Katz, IUPUI charitable law professor.

Katz says it could be a case of good intentions gone astray or worse.

"If they are less competent or corrupt then they'll go away and maybe get in trouble," said Katz.

The Indiana Attorney General would not comment on its investigation.

Archat refused to speak on camera or provide the financial records requested by 13 Investigates. But she says she took in $46,000 and is reportedly operating under the umbrella of Power in Praise Ministries of California. That church charity is not required to give public disclosure.

Prior supporters tell us they are also looking into the unauthorized use of their logos on The Rebirth Project website and will no longer provide any funding to group.