On Your Side: Non-Profit Says Was Bilked for Thousands

By: Jeff Anderson Email
By: Jeff Anderson Email

News 12 at 6, August 13, 2007

Augusta -- We first told you about a woman who's accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from dozens of people a few weeks ago.

12 On Your Side talked to one of the victims who says Cindy O'Tyson put her non-profit in major debt.

The Smart Girls Club prides itself on helping young women get prepared for life.

It only tries to provide a service and doesn't make any money, but the group's leader says someone else made money off of them.

"Smart Girls Club started a year and a half ago with the idea that we'd have a reading club for girls ages 12-15," says the group's Leader Pat Van Hooser.

"To be in Smart Girls is very cool," says Smart Girl Kendra Brown.

"It's really fun," says Smart Girl Toeshma Youmans.

But the girls and the group say they got a different kind of lesson recently, a lesson that says not all adults are good.

"It started great with Cindy. She was a big help," Van Hooser said.

Van Hooser says a lady named Cindy O'Tyson came around and seemed to want to help the group.

"She had contacts. She had great ideas," Van Hooser said.

But Pat says O'Tyson had another great idea, to use the Smart Girls name to line her own pockets.

Pat says O'Tyson got the group signed up for a credit card account with a major retailer. The card was supposed to help buy a few things for the girls. Pat says it turned out that it only helped O'Tyson to $4,000 that Smart Girls has to pay back.

"We were put into debt and, I was not aware of that, by Cindy O'Tyson," Van Hooser said.

It was news that put a damper on the girls.

"Words can't explain how I feel about it," Kendra said.

"It makes me disappointed and changes the way I think a bit," Teoshma said.

Investigators say many of the dozens of people O'Tyson is charged with stealing from won't ever see their money again, but it looks like the Smart Girls are a little luckier.

"The community has come around to help us and they've put us in a better situation than before," Van Hooser said.

Investigators say O'Tyson will be heading to prison, now awaiting trial. She's in prison because this arrest violated her parole.

The Smart Girls Club meets the third Thursday of every month at Tubman Middle School from 4:30 to 6PM. For more information you can go to http://www.Smartgirlsclub.Org.

If you'd like to make a donation to them, you can call 706-860-0116.

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