- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A former top executive for a Northern Virginia company accused of mismanaging charitable proceeds for Children’s Hospital Foundation yesterday disputed accusations that he played a central role in the scandal.

Richard Murray, former chief operating officer for Charity Vehicle Systems Inc., told a federal judge in the District by telephone that he is “on the edge of solvency” and cannot afford to hire a lawyer.

Mr. Murray, who has moved to Texas, is the last defendant in a federal lawsuit filed by the foundation against the car-donation company and its top executives.

The other defendants, including Chief Executive Officer Gregory Babcock, have reached out-of-court settlements.

The foundation sued the company nearly two years ago, saying Charity Vehicle officials diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars, used money for personal expenses and caused the nonprofit to file incorrect information on financial reports.

The foundation is the fundraising division of the Children’s National Medical Center. For more than two years, the foundation advertised for people to donate their used vehicles to help raise money for pediatric health care. But the program fizzled amid questions about the handling of nearly $700,000 in proceeds.

“I know that I am guilty of one thing and that’s being a stupid idiot and getting into business with Mr. Babcock,” Mr. Murray told U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr.

Mr. Babcock, who settled for an undisclosed sum, disputed accusations of wrongdoing and largely blamed Mr. Murray, according to legal filings.

Charity Vehicle, two other executives and Mr. Babcock’s advertising agency also have reached out-of-court settlements with the foundation.

Lewis Weiner, an attorney for the foundation, is seeking a default judgment against Mr. Murray. He said Mr. Murray has ignored numerous deadlines in the case and did not file an answer until this month.

“Right now, the case is somewhat languishing,” Mr. Weiner said.

Mr. Murray said he was too broke to afford airfare for the hearing yesterday, in addition to not having enough money for a lawyer.

He filed several documents in court earlier this month disputing the foundation’s accusations.

“I would like to see a search for truth, rather than a disregard for truth,” Mr. Murray wrote in one pleading.

However, his legal defense may have come too late.

Judge Kennedy said he still may issue a default judgment against Mr. Murray, though he scheduled a status conference in the case for April.

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