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YOU ASK. WE INVESTIGATE. Former employees call Las Vegas shelter for teens 'fraudulent business'

Posted at 12:40 AM, Apr 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-14 03:40:49-04

It seemed like a noble idea. Provide a roof over the heads of teenagers forced to live on the streets. 

Hearts 4 Angels ranch/shelter for homeless teens says on their website they provide kids “with an opportunity to better themselves.”

“I really wanted to help homeless teens,” said Kea Everette, a former accountant with Hearts 4 Angels.

“We wanted to get them off the street, take them into a ranch, go through rehab, education,” said Jonathan Farren, the former manager.

The shelter claims to offer teen pregnancy services and help young people who age out of the foster care system. The ranch’s website says teens have apartments with individual kitchens, a daycare center, even an indoor pool and spa all staffed by smiling volunteers.

But there’s just one catch.

“There was no ranch. There was no helping any teens. There was nothing,” said Everette.

Everette worked with Hearts 4 Angels for one week. Her job: follow the dollars.

“I found no dollars,” Everette said.

She knew something was wrong after just a few days on the job.

“I asked Sara, ‘hey, can you give me the grant agreements? Are they here?’ And she’s like ‘oh no, they’re at home. I’ll bring them to you tomorrow,’” Everette said.

The woman Everette is referring to is Sara Cottingham, the charity’s CEO. Everette tells 13 Action News she would ask Cottingham for documents that any nonprofit should have, including a 501c3, verification proving nonprofit status, and a business license.

“Tomorrow, no documents, next day, no documents,” Everette said.

“Articles of incorporation, a business plan so I could structure the employees,” Farren said. “I didn’t have any of these documents to work on.”

13 Action News did some digging. We found no evidence of Hearts 4 Angels on the IRS website for tax-exempt organizations.

We checked the Secretary of State of Nevada’s website for a business license for the charity and found no sign of it.

13 Action News even checked Clark County’s Site for business licenses. No item was found that matches search criteria.

“This was a fraudulent business,” Everette said.

Then the paychecks began bouncing, that is, for employees who got paid.

“I received one paycheck,” Farren said. “It ends up bouncing.”

13 Action News went to the address listed on the website for the ranch and found an empty lot, no sign of a shelter.

“Nothing was there at all,” Everette said.

13 Action News tracked down Cottingham. When asked if she was running a bogus shelter, Cottingham responded “no.”

Cottingham denies all the accusations. We told her about the shelter address that led to an empty lot.

Cottingham answered “yes, but that’s the wrong address.”  

When asked about the missing documents, Cottingham responded “they’re lying, ‘cause I have all of the paperwork.”

We asked Cottingham for those documents. She refused to give them to us.

13 Action also found that checks had bounced that were written to the staffing company that found employees for Hearts 4 Angels. That company severed ties with Hearts 4 Angels and alerted all employees the company placed at the charity.

Farren and Everette told 13 Action News that Hearts 4 Angels was evicted from its headquarters on Howard Hughes Parkway for non-payment of rent.