Sunday, May 28, 2023

Herschel Walker had ties to two charities that appear to have engaged in little, if any charity

Herschel Walker had ties to two charities that appear to have engaged in little, if any charity

Records indicate Herschel Walker spent years serving as a pitchman for two nonprofit charity groups that didn't live up to their promises.

Republican US Senate nominee Herschel Walker spent years serving as a pitchman for two nonprofit charity groups that appear to have engaged in little, if any, charitable activity, an Insider review of public records found. 

The former NFL star, who faces Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock in a US Senate runoff Tuesday, served as a spokesperson for multi-level marketing company Livio International and a partner with Texas supplement company VMP Nutrition.

Both groups' charitable arms promised to help children, but seemed to quickly fail — and never deliver on their lofty promises. 

These are the latest examples of a string of controversies over Walker's involvement with less-than-successful and dubious corporate entities, in which his truthfulness about his business and personal lives has also come into question. 

Walker's campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Insider.

One company Walker promoted was Livio, a now-defunct Ohio-based outfit that hawked "anti-aging skin care" products with "patented breakthrough anti- aging technology that works with a Growth Factor Complex and stem cells," according to the company's YouTube channel. 

"I've been on a mission all my life to support people who may not have as much they need, whether that's money or health or opportunity," Walker said in the video. "Livio has been on the same mission and together we can make a lot of good stuff happen for a lot of deserving people."

In 2014, Livio partnered with Walker on a charitable foundation called Livio Cares that sought to help children combating "physical, neurological, financial and other types of challenges." During 2014, Walker spoke at Livio's launch event and made multiple appearances at its office. He was also featured in marketing material for the Livio Cares Foundation and was listed as a Livio Cares Partner. 

However, there is no evidence Livio Cares engaged in philanthropic activities. While Livio claimed its foundation provided "time and financial resources" to organizations for children, an Insider analysis of Livio Cares' federal tax documents offered no evidence that the group received or provided charitable donations.

A search of ProPublica's Nonprofit Explorer for "Livio Cares" returned no results. Its website also did not list any donors or charitable events, and searches for documents indicating Livio Cares provided "time" or "financial resources" to organizations helping children yielded no evidence that it ever had.

According to the Ohio Secretary of State's website, Livio Cares was registered as a nonprofit from 2014 to 2019, until its business registration was cancelled in 2019. 

There was also no record of any IRS Form 990s filed by Livio Cares. 

Kevin Scally, chief relationship officer at charity assessment organization Charity Navigator, said every nonprofit organization must file an IRS Form 990, an informational tax form that provides the public with financial information about a nonprofit organization, or a version of it, depending on its amount of gross receipts and assets.  

"If you're collecting funds in all 50 states, or you're sending mailings out, you have to register with each of those states," Scally told Insider.

Above all, he added, "a proven track record and how cost efficient they are in delivering on their mission," is important.

"Do they have an articulated strategy? What's their mission and model and do they have good transparency in their different policies and practices? Do they have something like an independent board of directors?" Scally said. "Certainly if you're a celebrity, an influencer or a politician and you want to maintain your own reputation, you should be doing your due diligence."

In 2014, Livio's parent company, Legacy Network Holdings, and its founders, Daniel Martin and Damon Mintz, were sued for fraud by investors Donald and Rita Peck.

The complaint, filed against Legacy Network Holdings and several other individuals and corporate entities, alleged a "fraudulent investment scheme to bill more than $1.3 million from the Pecks."

The complaint also alleged that the defendants "falsely misled" the Pecks and "intentionally, maliciously, and fraudulently omitted critical material facts to manipulate the Pecks into believing that defendants were legitimate entrepreneurs with a proven track record and formula for success."

In May 2016, an Ohio court dismissed the lawsuit. 

Walker and the Texas supplement company 

Around the same time Walker got involved with Livio, he also served as a partner with Texas supplement company VMP Nutrition and director of its nonprofit VMP Nutrition Foundation. 

Founder Cesar Rodriguez, whom Walker mentioned on the 2022 campaign trail, said VMP Nutrition "teamed with leading, proven industry experts" to tackle global malnutrition. 

"The continuing mortality and disease burden resulting from this nutrition-related factor requires urgent intervention now," Rodriguez said in a video. "To address this silent killer, I decided to change from being an observer to an active player by founding VMP Nutrition to promote the development and formulation of nutritional supplements that provides an adequate supply of vitamins, minerals, protein, and omega fatty acids." 

From 2011, Walker was involved in the company, according to an archived version of its website from 2012 as catalogued by the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. It stated that Walker was "very intrigued" in VMP Nutrition and offered to show "how far I can take his product."

"Herschel was very intrigued from the very beginning, constantly offering his support by saying 'once you are ready, I will show you how far I can take this product,'" the website stated. "Since then he followed and monitored part of the development, participating in different tasting stages." 

The December 2011 issue of Playboy Magazine also mentioned the "nutritional supplement" Walker was working on: "He and Walker are both in the food business. Along with a couple of partners they are developing a nutritional supplement, believing that a marketing campaign that capitalizes on Walker's sculpted physique and his NFL and MMA pedigrees will get their product on store shelves. This evening potential investors have flown in from California."

VMP Nutrition Foundation, the company's charitable arm, said on its website that it works with "government agencies, non-government agencies, school systems and private donors within the United States and multiple countries to address malnutrition in the most far-reaching regions." 

According to ProPublica's Nonprofit Explorer, Walker was listed as the director of VMP Nutrition Foundation in Fort Worth, Texas. In 2014, total revenue was around $90,000 — an exponential jump from 2012's total revenue of $5,388. A Form 990 filed by VMP also stated that Walker served as one of the nonprofit's board directors.

In 2012, the foundation claimed it would nourish 150,000 children in the Detroit area through a summer program.

"VMP Nutrition, together with local organizations, is launching a summer program focused on nourishing children in the Detroit metropolitan area," the website stated. "Over 150,000 children will be nourished during the summertime period." 

Between 2012 and 2013, VMP Nutrition donated between $10,000 to $24,999 to a Detroit hunger nonprofit Forgotten Harvest. But there's no evidence VMP Nutrition ever did more to fight hunger, say nothing of feeding 150,000 children in Detroit.

Web searches offered no evidence VMP Nutrition had any events in Detroit, and a search of its Twitter account showed it never tweeted about Detroit.

In 2013, the spring newsletter of UAW-Ford — a joint venture between the labor union and auto company — indicated that either the union or one of its officials made a contribution of an unspecified amount to VMP Nutrition. 

"Your kind gift was received and processed in the calendar year 2013. Philanthropic support makes a tremendous difference at VMP Nutrition, helping to change the lives of children. On behalf of the many people who benefit from your generosity, thank you," it said in the newsletter.

VMP Nutrition last posted from its Facebook account in June 2015.

According to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts website, the right to transact business in Texas for VMP Nutrition as well as VMP Nutrition Foundation is listed as "forfeited." 

In 2017, VMP Nutrition and its founder Rodriguez settled a lawsuit filed by Southside Bank for an alleged failure to repay a $2,795,534 lien. Court documents did not specify the value of the settlement.

Walker has also had his ties to a veterans program questioned.

In May, the Associated Press reported that Walker took credit for founding, co-founding and sometimes operating a program called Patriot Support that "treats (thousands) of soldiers a year," but corporate documents, court records and Senate disclosures reviewed by the AP revealed that Walker overstated his role in a for-profit program that is alleged to have preyed upon veterans and service members while defrauding the government.

Walker, a staunchly anti-abortion candidate, came under harsh criticism after a woman accused him of paying for her to have an abortion, as reported by The Daily Beast in October.

In the same month, a second woman came forward and said Walker drove her to an abortion clinic and paid her to have an abortion she was reluctant to get in 1993.


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