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Fundraising Scandal Rocks Chicago Symphony Orchestra

The Illinois Attorney General’s Office for Charitable Trusts is investigating DCM Tele fundraising.

DCM is the subcontractor for The Chicago Symphony Orchestra*(1). DCM is a nation-wide fundraising outfit that handles tele fundraising for multiple arts organizations including The CSO, the Houston Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet, Boston Symphony Orchestra, and others.

Questions being asked of DCM include their refusal to place patrons on the do not call list when requested and subsequently providing inflated membership numbers to the CSO’s Development Office. The Development Office in turn provided the inflated numbers to corporate sponsors in exchange for large financial contributions.

In addition questions are being asked regarding convicted serial fraudster, Jacqueline Berkaw.

For over a year, from 2015 until Winter 2016, Berkaw was DCM’s tele fundraising manager in Chicago, at CSO’s Symphony Center.

Berkaw is notorious in Southern California for an epic fraud spree in which she was accused and put on trial for credit card fraud, bank fraud, identity theft and real estate fraud. Berkaw was convicted and served 2 years at the federal prison at Lompoc.

Charged under a R.I.C.O statute*(2) Berkaw ran a fraud bull-dozer over hundreds of victims. These included up-scale department stores where Berkaw made tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of purchases using stolen credit cards – and resold the designer clothes at a profit. Berkaw also committed fraud against a charity that worked with abused children and in another fraud stole money from dozens of renters who were victims of her schemes involving properties in Southern California. Additionally Berkaw was arrested and tried for Mail Fraud in Florida.

During her time at DCM working to raise money for the CSO Berkaw was characterized by employees as verbally abusive, incoherent, arbitrary, and prone to fits of screaming and demeaning verbal attacks.

When the CSO was informed of Berkaw’s criminal background by a Chicago attorney representing a whistleblower, two members of the CSO Board responded that they did not care and were uninterested in the details.

When an attorney for the CSO was informed of Berkaw’s background and behaviour at Symphony Center, the CSO began an “internal investigation” that included hiring an outside computer expert to review Berkaw’s computer activity. Following that review CSO asked DCM to remove Berkaw from the Symphony Center. DCM complied but, according to DCM sources, she was transferred to The Houston Ballet, to run the tele fundraising office, where she has access to thousands of patron credit cards.

When asked if Berkaw had been fired, the attorney for the CSO would only say that she had been removed from Symphony Center. All other questions were referred to DCM.

The Illinois Attorney General’s Office for Charitable Trusts has been made aware of these issues and is investigating and sources say they expect to make an announcement in June, 2017.

Updates, soon.

*(1) The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association and not the musicians.

*(2) Berkaw and the RICO Charges:


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