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'Philando Feeds The Children' Founder Accused Of Stealing $120K In Donations

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison says his office is taking action against a woman alleged to have siphoned more than $120,000 from a charity that raised funds in Philando Castile's name.

Castile was fatally shot during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights in July of 2016 by now-former St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez, who was later acquitted of manslaughter. Castile was a nutrition supervisor at St. Paul's J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School, and was known to regularly help students pay for their lunches.

Pamela Fergus started "Philando Feeds The Children" in 2017 as part of an in-class service project for a one-semester-long college course she taught, with the original goal of raising $5,000 online to pay off the lunch debts of St. Paul Public School students. However, Ellison says she quickly raised $80,000, which she donated to the school district.

But Fergus allegedly left the fundraising site active once the semester was over, and accumulated about another $120,000 in donations that were sent to her personal checking account though the spring of 2018.

Philando Castile
Philando Castile at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School (credit: CBS)

Ellison says his office opened an investigation in 2020, and Fergus has "rebuffed numerous attempts to work constructively with the Attorney General's office to account for the $120,000 that remains unaccounted for," as well as invoking her Fifth-Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Valerie Castile, Philando's mother, back's Ellison's move to sue Fergus.

"When you run a campaign or event to honor or support a charity or cause you are passionate about, please direct those funds in the appropriate manner," Castile said. "Donors in their generosity expect your honesty and commitment."

Ellison has charged her with one count each of breach of charitable trust, deceptive solicitation of charitable contributions, failure to keep proper records as a soliciting charity, and failure to register as a soliciting charity with his office -- which is also seeking restitution so the missing funds go to student lunch debt.

Click here for his office's tips on starting charities, and click here for tips on donating tp charities.

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