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Chicago Symphony Orchestra Fundraising Scandal Expands to Houston Ballet

Several weeks ago sources informed The Ink that DCM Telefunding had transferred Jacqueline Berkaw from their Chicago office to the telefunding office at the Houston Ballet. The Ink can now report that Berkaw is being presented as the manager of the telefunding office, and as the President of the Houston Ballet and Chief Operating Officer of the Houston Ballet.

The positions of COO and President are filled by other individuals.

This raised the question: Is she using her position with the Houston Ballet to orchestrate additional fraud schemes by posing as an executive with the organization?

To review:

This is a woman with multiple convictions for credit card fraud, bank fraud, real estate fraud and who was asked to be removed from her position as manager of the telefundraising office for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra following an internal investigation. That investigation was resisted by the CSO board and only proceeded once a CSO lawyer was informed that a whistleblower and multiple witnesses had contacted the media.

See this profile of Berkaw for details on her criminal background:

(click link) JunkBlonde

The Ink asks the following questions:

What is DCM president Phil Miller thinking?

Is Berkaw forcing him to keep her on in positions where she has access to credit cards?

Is Miller involved in a nationwide fraud scheme?

Does the Houston Ballet know about her background?

Do the patrons of the Houston Ballet know?

Have you or anyone you know ever provided the Houston Ballet with your credit card?

If so make sure it’s secure.

And what exactly does this say about fundraising for the arts?

DCM Telefunding operates nationwide and internationally on behalf of multiple art organizations. It is reasonable to ask the following questions:

Is DCM running a nationwide fraud campaign?

Does Berkaw have access to credit cards across the country?

Is the Chicago Symphony Orchestra liable for damages because it refused to inform the public about Berkaw?

Essentially this is an unregulated industry that intentionally or accidentally is operating as a vast funnel for identity theft and fraud on a massive scale. DCM is knowingly using a convicted serial fraudster to run telefundraising offices across the country. Confronted by its contractor and the Attorney General’s Office for Charitable Trusts DCM simply moves a career criminal from one office to the next and seemingly without any punishment. It is important to realize that DCM was required to conduct a background check for all employees including Berkaw. Failure to do so is illegal. Conducting a background check and ignoring multiple criminal convictions for fraud is also illegal. Removing a convicted serial fraudster from one fundraising office and installing them in another demonstrates a willful disregard for the law, and the financial well being of donors as well as a callous disregard for the stability of the organizations for whom DCM is raising money.

And why is this happening? Because the venal and feckless politicians refuse to legislate. As a source with knowledge of the issue explained: “Essentially it’s a game of whack-a-mole. The industry is unregulated and once we crack down on one person or company they just repackage and resurface somewhere else.”

And why is it unregulated? Because of the failure of the politicians.

On the one hand you have the republicans with their wild west fantasies about the benefits of deregulation and their insistence that “red tape” gets in the way and who clearly have no interest in law and order except when it comes to shoving a federal microphone into your home through a hose labeled NSA or empowering the police to transform themselves into paramilitary thugs. Or providing massive bailouts to their corporate sponsors. And on the other hand you have the democrats who wouldn’t know a principled stand if you hit them with it and who offer non-existent resistance and hand wringing.

The result: hundreds of millions of dollars stolen, identities stolen, credit ruined, and the reputation of essential cultural treasures hanging by a thread.

#draintheswamp takes on a new meaning.

Updates soon.

One comment on “Chicago Symphony Orchestra Fundraising Scandal Expands to Houston Ballet

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