Judge orders veterans' charity accused of misappropriating funds to cease operations

A Cook County judge has barred a Lombard-based charity from collecting donations after ruling the group and its founders misappropriated money solicited to help veterans.

Judge Pamela McLean Meyerson entered the court order Aug. 14 prohibiting the Veterans Christian Network from operating and its founders, Todd and Priscilla Olshefski, from fundraising or engaging in future charitable activities, according to a statement from the Illinois attorney general's office.

The ruling resolved a lawsuit filed earlier this year by Attorney General Kwame Raoul's office accusing VCN and its directors of violating state charity laws by misusing money they collected. The order came after the defendants failed to show up for multiple hearings.

The court also issued a $28,337 judgment against VCN and the Olshefskis after they allegedly collected that amount from donors and failed to use it for the charity's stated goal, prosecutors said.

Todd Olshefski, 50, and his 60-year-old wife, Priscilla, formed VCN in March 2018 and started soliciting donations "to support programs for veterans returning from combat," the attorney general's office said. The suit accused the organization of failing to register with the attorney general's office or file reports on its charitable activities.

Of all the funds collected and deposited into a VCN account controlled by the Olshefskis, "it was unclear whether any money was used for programs benefitting veterans," prosecutors said. The suit alleged the couple withdrew at least $10,000 in cash from the account to spend on personal items.

In addition to the lawsuit, the Olshefskis were each charged in May with a felony count of unlawful use of charitable funds in DuPage County. Priscilla Olshefski pleaded guilty last month and was sentenced to 170 days in jail.

DuPage county prosecutors accused them of spending money raised on rent, car payments, insurance and veterinary bills for their dog.

The criminal case against Todd Olshefski is pending.