Top T.J. Martell Foundation Exec Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud Charge After Allegedly Embezzling $3.7 Million

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Melissa Goodwin, who formerly served as executive vice president of the T.J. Martell Foundation, has pled guilty to a wire-fraud charge after embezzling over $3.7 million from the cancer-research non-profit organization.

The Department of Justice last month announced the shocking criminal charges against Goodwin, age 55, who had worked at the Nashville-based T.J. Martell Foundation since 2005 and was the NPO’s EVP and general manager between 2018 and July of 2020. Local outlets including The Tennessean reported today that Goodwin had entered a guilty plea. Her sentencing hearing is set for Friday, May 20th.

Founded 47 years back, the T.J. Martell Foundation bills itself as “the music industry’s leading foundation that funds innovative medical research focused on finding treatments and cures for cancer.” High-profile industry figures from the major labels, the Recording Academy, Greenberg Traurig, and elsewhere are part of the entity’s executive committee.

The T.J. Martell Foundation to date has “raised more than $280 million in support of medical research grants at leading institutions across the United States,” per its website. But with ample operating capital comes the potential for major financial crimes, and as initially mentioned, Melissa Goodwin allegedly embezzled a staggering $3.7 million from the T.J. Martell Foundation.

According to a formal release from the DOJ, the “fraudulent scheme” allegedly initiated in July of 2018 and carried on until June of 2020, with Goodwin purportedly obtaining a T.J. Martell Foundation credit card “in her own name.” The longtime NPO employee then allegedly used the payment method to buy “approximately $3.96 million in tickets from online ticket vendors Ticketmaster, Stubhub, Primesport, and On-Location.”

But these tickets – including passes to Lady Gaga and Celine Dion concerts and even Super Bowl LIV – “were not for a legitimate Foundation purpose,” according to the stunning announcement message. The cash-hungry offender allegedly forwarded the tickets to a New York City-based individual “who owned and operated a charity auction business.”

“As part of the scheme, Goodwin led this individual to believe that she had acquired the tickets at no cost or at a discounted rate,” the document relays. And to hide the ticket purchases – and the related windfalls from the auctions – from her non-profit employer, the brazen defendant allegedly “falsified the credit card statements by altering them.”

Goodwin “often replaced the name of the actual vendor with the name of a different vendor so that the charges appeared to be legitimate Foundation expenses,” the text specifies on this front.

(The T.J. Martell Foundation has also filed a pair of civil suits, against an auction-company owner and the charitable organization’s two accounting firms.)

And the T.J. Martell Foundation’s “accounting firm” then prepared “financial statements based on these falsified credit card statements and expense reports,” before emailing said statements to the alleged criminal, “whose job it was to provide them to the Foundation’s CEO.”

“However, before providing them to the CEO, Goodwin falsified those financial statements by inflating the Foundation’s assets and lowering its liabilities to make the Foundation appear to be more liquid than it was at the time,” the DOJ release indicates. “These falsifications prevented the Foundation from detecting Goodwin’s fraudulent transactions.”

Besides allegedly racking up millions in credit-card charges for tickets to live events and falsifying credit-card and financial statements accordingly, Goodwin allegedly used Foundation funds (by paying off the credit card at hand with the NPO’s cash) to purchase “expensive and rare alcohols, plane tickets, and hotel stays.”

Lastly, Goodwin allegedly “forged the signature of the Foundation’s CEO on six checks totaling $966,275.78.” These expenses, needless to say, “were not approved by the Foundation.”

Goodwin faces a fine of up to $250,000 and a maximum of 20 years in prison. The government is likewise seeking “the forfeiture of at least $3,765,606.77,” or the alleged crime’s proceeds.

At the time of this piece’s writing, the T.J. Martell Foundation didn’t seem to have issued a press release regarding the alleged crimes or Goodwin’s guilty plea – nor does the entity look to have published any release, tweet, or Facebook post whatsoever since 2020.

One Response

  1. Moral B

    Stealing money from a for-profit company is bad enough, but a charity? What a creep.