OKLAHOMA CITY – A criminal investigation reviewing the activities at the Oklahoma City-based hunger relief charity Feed The Children during the tenure of its founder is under way, according to documents filed by the state Attorney General's office.
The document filed Monday in Oklahoma County District Court also opposes a motion to overturn the attorney general's dismissal of founder Larry Jones' lawsuit. The motion asked that a receiver be named to operate the agency.
Attorney General Scott Pruitt's office declined further comment in a statement released Wednesday, saying it "cannot comment on an active criminal investigation."
Feed The Children was founded by Jones and his wife in 1979 and has become one of the world's largest charities. It is known for Jones' televised pleas for donations as a hungry child is seated beside him.
Assistant Attorney General Julie Bays said during a court hearing in April that the office was reviewing allegations of misuse of funds at Feed The Children and that the case "could end up a criminal matter."
Monday's filing said reopening Jones' lawsuit would impede a criminal investigation "into possible violations of law during Jones' tenure as president of Feed The Children." The filing did not say what it is being investigated or when the review became a criminal investigation.
Monday's filing did not target the charity, saying the office "will continue to monitor Feed The Children, but at this time is confident in the direction the charity has taken."
Jones filed a lawsuit after being fired by the charity's board of directors in November 2009, when the board learned Jones had installed recording devices in executives' offices. A second lawsuit filed by Jones alleging wrongful termination is pending.
Feed The Children filed a countersuit accusing Jones of taking bribes and misusing the charity's funds. Jones denied the allegations.
Jones asked then-Attorney General Drew Edmondson's office to intervene in the first lawsuit, which Edmondson did before dismissing the case in December.
Pruitt took office Jan. 10.
Jones' attorney, Mark Hammons, did not immediately return phone calls to The Associated Press seeking comment.
"If Larry Jones had anything to hide, he wouldn't have invited a law enforcement agency to take a look at the operations in the first place," Hammons told The Oklahoman for a story published Wednesday.
Feed The Children said in a statement Wednesday that the agency is not under investigation.
"We are pleased to read in the briefing that the Attorney General's office 'is confident in the direction the charity has taken,'" the statement said. "Feed The Children is confident in the legal system and will cooperate fully. We are proud of the changes being made at Feed The Children and look forward to continuing our good work."
In December, the charity named retired American Heart Association CEO Cass Wheeler as its interim president.
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