Poor Ferdy

Ferdinand Mahfood embezzled thousands of dollars from his own charity to support his mistresses. So why is he hanging around?

For FFP the continued listing is a good thing, too, because affiliation with the Catholic Church provides a significant, if indirect, source of donor income. "It gives FFP access to its donor base," Wenski explains. "Most of its solicitation is done through pulpit appeals. They get access to a pulpit at a sermon and pass out their literature, although they don't take up a collection."

Whether or not last fall's revelations pose a long-term threat to donor confidence remains to be seen. The FBI investigation remains a potentially embarrassing loose end, but the charity's problems in civil court seem to be fading. The Robert Taylor lawsuit has been dismissed. In the October Sun-Sentinel article about the scandal, Ariel Raab, a Fort Lauderdale attorney, said she was representing one of the women in a lawsuit to be filed that week. No such suit was ever filed; Raab did not return repeated calls to her office for comment. Whatever negative connotations the Atkerson trial may have could be blunted if Ferdy stays away; FFP has made a number of institutional changes designed to preclude similar scandals.

But some suspect Ferdy can't, or won't, stay away long. Taylor and Russ Russell also raised the possibility, in their memoranda about the "secret meeting" Ferdy held during his suspension, that he never truly left the charity and continues to run it in exile. In any case Ferdy's alienation from the organization he built is doubtless painful for him, and this is perhaps one reason why it seems no one -- not Nelson and ECFA, the Catholic Church, or FFP volunteers -- wants to bar him from returning.

In 1999 Food for the Poor distributed more than $1.6 million in aid to people in developing countries
Miami Herald
In 1999 Food for the Poor distributed more than $1.6 million in aid to people in developing countries

In their opinion Ferdinand Mahfood and the charity he founded have suffered enough.

"If [FFP] craters," Nelson wonders aloud, "who ultimately is going to be hurt but the very people the organization was formed to help?"

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