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I-Team: Design Industry Rallies To Support Of Dorchester Youth Nonprofit

DORCHESTER (CBS) -- After a designer ripped off a Boston nonprofit that serves low-income kids, people who work in the industry are rallying to support the youth organization.

Designers from around the country have donated to a GoFundMe page that will benefit All Dorchester Sports League (ADSL).

dorchester million dollar decorator rip off youth nonprofit i-team
A GoFundMe page to benefit the ADSL. (GoFundMe)

The response comes in the wake of an I-Team investigation, which revealed well-known designer James Swan had taken money from the nonprofit, but never provided security lighting. After Swan told the I-Team he would return the funds in April, the designer still failed to make good on that promise.

The I-Team later discovered victims all over the country owed large sums of money and confronted Swan at the airport when he returned from a trade conference in California.

The GoFundMe effort launched on Thursday with a goal of raising $7,000, the outstanding amount Swan still owes ADSL.  However, within 24 hours, the group's effort had nearly doubled that tally.

dorchester million dollar decorator rip off youth nonprofit i-team
WBZ-TV's Ryan Kath talks with Linda Merrill. (WBZ-TV)

Massachusetts designers like Linda Merrill reacted in horror when she saw the I-Team story.

"It's like a gut punch," Merrill said. "To hear that someone in your industry is doing this to a nonprofit is just devastating to us."

Merrill contacted the I-Team about a way to assist ADSL and the online donation page quickly took shape. She reiterated that the fundraising effort is by no means a bailout or endorsement of Swan and his activities. They still expect him to pay up his debt.

"We really hate to see something like this happen, especially to a community-based organization," Merrill explained. "We felt like we could all chip in and let the kids know they're loved."

dorchester million dollar decorator rip off youth nonprofit i-team
Ryan Kath with James Swan (WBZ-TV)

Following the I-Team story, Swan posted an apology on Facebook and acknowledged the debt owed ADSL. However, he denied wrongdoing with any of the cases WBZ reported.

"No one is responsible for this situation but me and I take full responsibility for it," Swan said in the video.

Swan attributed many of the issues to a 2009 bankruptcy, but the I-Team found civil judgments in Lynn, Mass. ($14,000), Denver ($150,000) and Los Angeles ($151,000) that were awarded after that legal process.

Meantime, the company that sponsored Swan's "Million Dollar Decorating" podcast has already pulled its advertising. Anna Brockway, co-founder of Chairish, said her business also donated to ADSL.

"Along with much of the interior design community, we were surprised, dismayed and disappointed to learn about Mr. Swan's alleged activities and history," Brockway told the I-Team.

dorchester million dollar decorator rip off youth nonprofit i-team
ADSL executive director Candice Gartley. (WBZ-TV)

On Friday, ADSL executive director Candice Gartley said she was overwhelmed by the show of generosity from the design industry.

"I'm not a person who cries, but I gotta tell you I went home last night and cried," she said. "And it was good. It was a good crying."

Ryan Kath can be reached at You can follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook.


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