Former WDJX-FM Louisville Program Director Todd Smith, known on the air as Todd Kelly, has been sentenced to seven years in federal prison and ordered to repay restitution of 74K. Kelly had pleaded guilty to setting up a phony charity to raise money after fraudulently claiming that he had been diagnosed with ALS, known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The Todd Kelly Foundation was established in 2002, purportedly to raise money for ALS research, and Kelly used his public image to solicit contributions. In addition to the radio station he worked at, Kelly got WAVE-TV (Ch. 3, NBC) to help sponsor fund-raising events. According to US Attorney David Huber in Louisville, Kelly admitted that none of the money raised ever went to ALS research. Rather, Kelly used foundation funds to pay for his own personal expenses, including car payments, cable and phone bills and vacations.
Kelly played the role to the hilt. RBR found a Louisville Courier-Journal article on the Internet from 2003 in which Kelly was quoted as comparing himself to George Bailey, the character played by Jimmy Stewart in the classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The story recounted how Kelly was facing an untimely end to his life but sought to have good come from it. “After a lifetime of giving to others, Kelly, 32, has for the past 2-1/2 years been busy receiving aid and encouragement in his fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease,” the article gushed.
Now, more than six years after announcing his phony “diagnosis,” Kelly is healthy as ever, but facing seven years in federal prison. His mother, Sybil Smith, has also pleaded guilty in the case and faces sentencing in January.
RBR observation: This is clearly a case where everybody loses. Kelly is getting what he deserves, but the damage won’t really be undone. Tens of thousands of bucks that could have, and should have, gone to legitimate charities, have been wasted. Some people in the Louisville area will no doubt be more cautious about giving to charities, fearful of being ripped-off again.