The New York music star’s charity is supposed to empower women but instead has no office, no phone number — and hundreds of thousands of dollars in missing donations.
It failed to file its federal tax returns for 2010, which were due last November, along with its annual state-charity registration. The charity has now been hit with two lawsuits — one claiming the group stiffed musicians at its 2011 fund-raising gala and another saying it defaulted on a $250,000 loan, The Post has learned.
Blige, known as the “queen of hip-hop soul,” touted the charity’s success on the “Today” show in late 2010, saying, “I sent 25 women to college.”
She was promoting her fragrance, My Life, which sold a record 60,000 bottles on the Home Shopping Network during its six-hour debut in 2010. One dollar from each sale was supposed to benefit The Mary J. Blige and Steve Stoute Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now, known as FFAWN.
“I just want to be one of those women to reach out and show women if I can do it, we all can do it,” said the artist, who has often tapped her own hard-luck story of poverty, sexual abuse and drug and alcohol addiction for inspiration.
Where the $60,000 from the fragrance sale and other donations went is a mystery. The group’s 2010 annual report has nothing on its finances for that year.
And just months after the “Today” appearance, the charity began falling apart. It held a star-studded benefit concert on May 3, 2011, hosted by Queen Latifah — an honorary board member of the charity — and featuring appearances by Blige, Jennifer Hudson and Christina Aguilera.
When several of the band members who accompanied the stars went to get paid, the checks bounced, according to court papers.
“We got a whole series of checks — rubber,” said Harvey Mars, a lawyer representing 30 musicians and others.
A lawsuit filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan this month claims the group is owed a total of $167,252 for wages and penalties for nonpayment. The charity did have cash, though. It borrowed $250,000 from TD Bank in June 2011.
The bank asked for repayment at the end of that year, sent two demand notices this February and got nothing. TD Bank sued the charity a few weeks ago.
A process server delivered documents relating to the suit to the charity’s purported office on West 45th Street last week.
A receptionist at the office, which is the headquarters of Stoute’s Translation marketing firm, said that the charity was no longer there and that she didn’t know where it was.
A source close to FFAWN acknowledged there were problems and said the group had retained a charity consultant, a forensic accountant and a law firm specializing in nonprofits “to look into certain issues.” The source would not elaborate.
Blige founded the charity in 2007 with a former record-company executive, and the duo tapped their celebrity network.
Pinkett Smith sat on the group’s board in 2008. Jay-Z, with whom Blige toured in 2008, joined in 2009.
Blige contributed only $25,000 to her organization in 2009. The sum was a pittance from a performer whose album sales and concerts grossed $43.5 million in 2008, according to Billboard.
While her charity is mired, Blige’s career is soaring. She is starring in the movie “Rock of Ages,” opening in a few weeks.
Jay-Z gave FFAWN $25,000 and Stoute $35,000 in 2009. Gucci ponied up $50,000 and Walmart $33,500 that year.
Mary J. Blige’s charity, meant to empower women, has missing money and unpaid bills, including:
* $60,000 raised by sales of perfume that is unaccounted for
* An unpaid bill of $167,252 for musicians who played at a 2011 benefit concert
* Default on a bank loan of $250,000
* $18,000 spent on a press conference in 2008