It has been just over a week since I appeared on “In The Room” to discuss the ongoing issues at Wrestlers Rescue. While the interview was hurried and squeezed in at the end, important questions were posed—many directly to Wrestlers Rescue. They have yet to answer.
The fact of the matter is that the ongoing issues with Wrestlers Rescue are now bigger than a dispute with Kamala. There are now far more important issues than whether or not James “Kamala” Harris receives a payment from Wrestlers Rescue. The charity has serious issues with transparency and faces a slew of accusations from other wrestlers which range from embezzlement to fraud.
Let this be made perfectly clear: Wrestlers Rescue must address the issues put forth both in the interview and below if they are to be trusted as a charity in or out of the wrestling community. We as a society may operate our justice system on the premise of “innocent until proven guilty;” however, when a person or entity like Wrestlers Rescue continues to speak in vague terms, continues to dodge relevant questions, continues to not produce information which could exonerate it of wrong doing, and does all this while protesting that it has done nothing wrong, the onus to prove innocence is squarely on its shoulders.
Wrestlers Rescue, its representatives, its defenders, or others who may share my skepticism of the program are all welcome to contact me either directly or c/o thebradyhicks.com if one so wishes. Below is a point by point breakdown of questions the wrestling world should be asking of Wrestlers Rescue, reason why those questions should be asked, and explanations of why that is important.
Fraud is a gravely serious charge, and proving or disproving it is incredibly important, and goes well beyond any initial emotion one might have. Kamala getting a check is not even the issue any more. Wrestlers Rescue addressing the content below is. Please read until the end as this has been written to bring the more serious issues to light at the end, where they can be fully appreciated and understood.
— Ray Bogusz, August 2012
Fact: This is, sadly, true. Wrestlers Rescue did in fact send a check and it was in fact returned as proven by pictures sent out by Dawn Marie after the fact. The check was made out to James Harris (to be referred to as Kamala from hereon) from a New Jersey bank under the account “Pro Wrestling Relief,” not “Wrestlers Rescue.” (That slight change will be incredibly important later on.) There are, however, questions to be raised regarding the dates on the certified mailing envelope from Kamala, the date the check was cut, and steps Dawn Marie and Wrestlers Rescue took after allegedly receiving the check back.
One of the backbones of Kamala’s explanation for returning the check is that he had received bad checks before and did not want to bother with the hassle of another bad check. Dawn Marie and Wrestlers Rescue counter this claim with one of their own: They claim the money sent was in certified funds and therefore there was no reason for Kamala to fear of a bad check. Their claim appears to be dubious at best.
While Dawn Marie has tweeted a picture of the check, and a picture of a connected bank statement showing there were enough funds to cover it, the claim that it was in certified funds is—at best—tenuous.
Certified funds are typically issued in the form of a cashier’s check, which was not what was issued to Kamala. The check issued to Kamala appears to be the same as a personal checking account, merely tied to a non-profit. This in and of itself doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the funds are certified. They (cashier’s checks) also take a bit more effort to obtain, so unless bounced checks have been a problem for Wrestlers Rescue before, there was no reason to even do so in the first place.
Wrestlers Rescue can clear this issue up easily: Show documentation—or any sort of clear proof—that the check sent to Kamala was indeed in certified funds.
2. Wrestlers Rescue claims that it exists as a for profit LLC because it was not able to establish a 501c(3) in a timely enough manner to assist Steve Williams.
Fact: This is true, but it gives rise to a whole host of unseemly questions which absolutely must be addressed by Wrestlers Rescue if we as a community are to continue supporting them.
The first of these is: Why can I not make a donation directly to the 501c(3) non-profit via the Wrestlers Rescue website? As of this initial investigation, there is only an option to donate to the For-Profit LLC, and not the Non-Profit charity. This degree of separation is important because it means that there is room for money to otherwise go unaccounted for or for non-charitable causes. While Wrestlers Rescue is explaining this, they also need to explain why the charity doesn’t have its own website all together, and seems to only exist as a dispersal arm for the LLC.
3. Wrestlers Rescue claims that it used the left over funds for Steve Williams to found a scholarship in his memory.
Fact: This is another in a long line of instances where Wrestlers Rescue asks us to take them at their word, yet leaves us with no reason to do so. Searches for such a scholarship have been fruitless.
Thankfully, this is also another issue where Wrestlers Rescue could easily clear the air in their favor: Direct us to the scholarship in question. What is its name? Whom does it benefit? Where can I locate detailed information about it? What is its website? What schools promote it?
4. Wrestlers Rescue often points to Jimmy Snuka as an example of a wrestler they have successfully helped.
Fact: Unfortunately, Mr. Snuka is about as far as their success seems to go. When pressed for other success stories, representatives for Wrestlers Rescue speak in vague generalities and airy platitudes. They point to nothing specific and give no names. This can, again, be cleared up rather easily: Give us specific names of wrestlers they have helped. Who are they? Where can one contact them? This is essentially us asking for references, and in light of some of the accusations against the entity, does not seem all too overbearing a demand.
Unfortunately, that isn’t where concerns over Mr. Snuka’s involvement end.
The timeline for exactly what Mr. Snuka was to Wrestlers Rescue at any given point is fuzzy at best. As of this time, my understanding from interviews, articles, and independent investigation is that the timeline is as follows:
– Mr. Snuka is somehow directly involved with the charity.
– Mr. Snuka then leaves the charity rather abruptly.
– Soon afterward, Mr. Snuka is then the recipient of a donation from Wrestlers Rescue.
– Shortly thereafter, he subsequently rejoins.
The IRS has very strict, clearly spelled out rules for who can and cannot receive money from a 501c(3) charity. In a sea of legalese, the rule in question is spelled out in astoundingly plain language. Individuals who have a direct connection to the charity other than as a beneficiary thereof cannot under any circumstances receive funds. At the very least, Wrestlers Rescue is dangerously close to stepping all over their own regulations and tiptoeing close to bribery.
Wrestlers Rescue and Dawn Marie must answer the following:
A) What is the exact timeline for Jimmy Snuka’s involvement in the organization? Provide documentation.
B) What are the exact restrictions they are operating under regarding this rule? How long does one have to be not-involved with the charity before they can receive money according to the IRS? Documentation must be provided. Their word is not enough.
C) Are there special exemptions the IRS has provided given the nature of the organization? What are they? Again, documentation is required, not optional, if they are to be believed.
5. Wrestlers Rescue claims all tax documents are available on their website under the “Financial” banner at the top navigation bar.
Fact: This is not true. A significant number of vital tax documents are missing. Listed there are 1040 forms for the years 2008 and 2009. Even if what we wanted were 1040 forms, having them from 2008 and 2009 do nobody much good at proving Wrestlers Rescue’s innocence. Being accused of out-and-out fraud in 2012 and saying that you can show us tax returns from 2008 is absurd. It’s the equivalent of saying “I couldn’t have shot your sister yesterday; I was in Oklahoma in 1993!” Both statements might very well be true, but neither does much to help prove the other.
In this instance, however, even if we had the 2012 return we wouldn’t know what to look for. Handing us the returns for 2010-12 sometime early next year wouldn’t yield much of anything either. If you’re familiar with the series “Law & Order” think of a scene were ADA Ben Stone is pouring over tax returns he subpoenaed because he was looking for “something.” That’s sort of where we’d be. We’d be looking for something, but what or where it would be is still a mystery. We need something else.
All 501c(3) charities are required by law to file what is called a Form 990. This form details all incomes and expenses for the charity.
Wrestlers Rescue has never made this public, even though most other 501c(3) organizations will do so even when they aren’t accused of fraud.
They must—under no uncertain terms—release that information.
All of this combined paints a very damning picture for Wrestlers Rescue. I implore all of you to please keep this pressure on Wrestlers Rescue, both for the integrity of the reputation of the business you all claim to love, and for the well being of the wrestlers whom happen to be part of it.
More information will be made available as it comes to light.
Ray Bogusz can be contacted via Twitter (@wrestlekingray) or via email c/o thebradyhicks.com