Social entrepreneur Jean Madden will face court early next month after Queensland police charged her with one count of fraud for allegedly acting “dishonestly” and “causing detriment” to the charity she founded.
The charge comes amid allegations Madden took control of the organisation’s website, email and bank accounts over the weekend. She is also facing allegations that she racked up more than $440,000 in unauthorised expenses from Street Swags, according to The Courier Mail.
Street Swags is a social enterprise that has provided basic housing and shelter for more than 50,000 Australians.
In 2014, Madden won the social enterprise category at the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. She is also a former Young Australian of the Year finalist.
Madden founded Street Swags around 12 years ago, but the charity’s director Paul Daly told SmartCompany this morning her employment was terminated on May 19 following concerns about the organisation’s accounts.
“We’ve got to allow the legal process to take its course,” Daly says.
Daly declined to comment further about the matter, instead referring SmartCompany to a statement published on Street Swags’ Facebook page that said it’s “business as usual” for the charity, despite a message appearing on the Street Swags website that said the charity was temporarily closed.
“Over this past weekend, the organisation’s official website and email were hacked,” the organisation said in the statement.
“This incident was reported immediately to Queensland Police on Monday morning and subsequent charges were laid against the responsible individual. Again, and most importantly, Street Swags is not closed for business.”
On the Street Swags website, Madden denies the allegations against her, instead blaming a disgruntled employee.
“There’s been a lot of defamation about myself and my staff in the media over the last few weeks, so I wanted to clear a few things up,” Madden says in a video posted to YouTube.
“Streets Swag’s VISA debit card, in my name, was used for company running costs. To have raked up $170,000 worth [of funds], that would at least have to be five years … as a charity we get audited every year.
“To have misappropriated $441,000, which is what I’m being accused of, is physically impossible because it’s more than the total expenditure for the entire organisation.”
SmartCompany attempted to contact Madden via the email address on the Street Swag website but did not receive a response prior to publication.