Filipino World War II Veterans
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LAS VEGAS, Nevada – My accidental host in my trip to the Aug. 1-4 UNITY Journalists convention in Las Vegas, Nevada was fuming mad when I stirred the hornet’s nest by listening to complaints of some disgruntled members of a Filipino American group which is working for recognition and payment of benefits of some 24,000 surviving Filipino World War II veterans.

My host welcomed me in his home for an emergency seven-hour overnight stay when my original host failed to fetch me that night. My host thought I had insulted him when I declined to tell him the identity of the guy (my source), who led me to the doorsteps of Jim Castillo and his wife, Rosie Castillo, former officers of the Filipino American Veterans of Nevada (FAVN).

My accidental host did not understand there are some rules observed by professional journalists, and one such rule requires journalists to protect the identity of their sources unless the same sources waive this confidentiality.

The Castillos told me that they were arbitrarily removed as FAVN officers when they requested a copy of the financial report on the various fund-raising activities conducted by the group since 2010.

My accidental host told me that since the non-disclosure of the group’s financial report is an “old, old, old, old” concern, I would only be wasting my time in probing into the mess. He does not know that prescriptive period under the statute of limitations for federal fraud, like mail and wire frauds, is five years.

My accidental host does not also understand that journalists have to get all sides of a story before they write their reports.

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And if indeed there is nothing wrong because it is an “old, old, old, old” concern, why is he trying put a firewall between me and the Castillos?

It was recalled that Jim Castillo accepted an invitation to join FAVN in May 2010 because as a retired sergeant of the US Marine Corps, he is qualified to join a “501(c)(19)” organization of past or present members of the US Armed Forces.

“I wanted to do some volunteer work or community service to the community,” Jim told me.

On June 2010, the founder and acting president of FAVN appointed him as membership and meeting coordinator, whose main duties are to recruit new members, to schedule meetings and to correspond to members.

Because under Section 511 of the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS), a 501(c) organization, like FAVN, is subject to tax on its “unrelated business income,” Castillo asked for a copy of the FAVN by-laws but the president showed him only a rough draft.

Despite the fact that the FAVN president failed to submit first a copy of the by-laws to the office of the Nevada Secretary of State, he went ahead with the first fund-raising activity of the group on Aug. 29, 2010 at South Point Hotel and Casino. Money raised during the event would be used to finance the upcoming Veterans Day “Salute to all Veterans” Dinner Ball and Show that was held in the Palace Station Hotel on Nov. 12, 2010.

With 240 people registering as bowlers and paying $25 each, the Aug. 29, 2010 event should have easily generated $6,000.

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During the “Salute to the Veterans Dinner and Ball” on Nov. 12, 2010 at the Palace Station, 300 people attended. At $30 ticket per person, it should have collected $9,000.

During the Memorial Day Dinner and Dance on Nov. 4, 2011 at Palace Station, about 300 or 400 people attended. At $40 per dinner ticket, the event should have earned between $12,000 and $16,000.

In another Memorial Day (May 2012) fund-raising event at Bugsy’s, dinner tickets were sold at $25 each, donations from sponsors were received, and sales of patriotic scarves, neckties and the book of the late Cmdr. Cedula were generated. But there was no estimate of the number of dinner tickets sold nor collections from sponsors and sales of scarves, neckties and the book.

There was another event on June 4, 2011 called Fiesta Filipino at Maryland Parkway in front of Sears Department Store parking lot. The NaFFAA president announced at the Memorial Day Dinner that part of the proceeds of Fiesta Filipino would go to FAVN. There were 18,000 to 20,000 people, who attended the Fiesta, and two weeks after the event, both presidents of FAVN and NaFFAA thanked  FAVN but were silent on the monetary pledge to FAVN although the Fiesta turned in a profit.

On the Nov. 12, 2010 Salute to the Veterans Dinner and Ball, the president of FAVN wrote $2,000 profit in a piece of paper that was not distributed to the members. On the Nov. 4, 2011 2ndDinner Ball at Palace Station Hotel and Casino, the FAVN president “read all the event expenses from a piece of paper, but there was no formal profit-and-loss statement distributed to the members.”

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Jim Castillo said that after the FAVN treasurer resigned in September 2010, the FAVN president appointed him as temporary or “de facto” treasurer because he did not handle any money, except signing a few checks. The president’s wife, who handled the group’s money, was the “de jure” treasurer. Yet Jim’s name was submitted as treasurer of the group to the office of the Secretary of State.

After the website of the FAVN was set up, Pay Pal and credit card accounts were opened but only the FAVN president can access or use them.

There were sales of shirts at $25 each, vests at $35 each, ball caps, neck ties, books, DVDs and membership dues at $10 each of 200 members but there was no financial report on these.

Castillo wants the Internal Revenue Service to compel the FAVN president to produce the group’s financial records.

The FAVN president did not respond to an email requesting comment on this column.