Money which was supposed to help the devastated victims of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas has instead been hijacked for one woman’s personal use. How much? More than $400,000 in donated cash.
That’s the allegation in a lawsuit filed this week by a nonprofit relief organization based in Nassau, the Headknowles Foundation. It is led by founder Gina Knowles, who is suing her former partner and co-founder, Lia Head-Rigby.
“I hate that I’m here right now having to deal with this, but there was no other choice,” Knowles said, explaining her presence in a Davie law office instead of tending to the work of distributing relief supplies in the Bahamas.
“She’s all about doing the right thing for the Bahamian people, she doesn’t want to be here being part of litigation, this was about serving and helping people,” said her attorney, Bill Mueller.
The lawsuit is front-page news in Nassau. The two women formed the Headknowles Foundation six years ago, but now Knowles accuses Head-Rigby and her husband of basically keeping that $400,000 for herself instead of passing it on to the foundation.
According to the lasuit, Knowles and Head-Rigby set up a GoFundMe account in the days immediately after Dorian pummeled Grand Bahama Island and the Abaco Islands. The account was in Head-Rigby’s name because she lives in the United States. More than $1 million poured in and was transferred to the Headknowles Foundation.
Everything was fine until the foundation asked Head-Rigby to send them the remaining money in the account, and she refused, saying she was setting up her own charity with that money.
“She took dominion and control over money that she was never entitled to,” said Knowles’ lawyer, Bill Mueller. “What’s relevant is the fact that she promised under penalty of perjury that money would go to the Headknowles Foundation, the first million showed up, and then she was caught with the fingers in the till and then the rest stopped.”
Knowles says she doesn’t know how to express her emotions about this falling out with her former friend and partner.
“Disappointment is not even near how I feel, and you know, people say, oh, your relationship, you’re friends, and I’m like, but what we are thinking about at the moment are the victims, the people who need this money, it’s not about me and you,” Knowles said.
We called Head-Rigby, who lives in Orlando, but she said she could not comment without permission from her lawyer. She has posted on social media that she is spending the money on relief supplies, but the lawsuit has receipts showing Head-Rigby spent thousands of dollars on personal items.
The Florida Department of Agriculture is investigating the case.