The founder of homelessness charity Street Swags, Jean Madden, was charged with fraud on Tuesday night after splitting from the charity earlier this year amid allegations she had misappropriated funds.
The one-time Queensland Young Australian of the Year was charged with one count of “dishonestly causing detriment” to the charity after its directors found she had "hijacked" the Street Swags email system, accounting software and website, where she posted a new message on the homepage.
Madden founded the charity, which provides the homeless with canvas bags that roll out into bedding, in 2010.
She also embedded a video to the homepage where she tells her side of the story.
"To have misappropriated $441,000, which is what I'm being accused of, is physically impossible," she said.
In the video, she encourages viewers to be part of "Swags with Walls", an offshoot of Street Swags that distributes cabins for the homeless.
Madden launched the initiative last year with her partner who she has been accused of offering an annual $528,000 contract to build them.
Last month a magistrate ordered her to return a brand new Toyota LandCruiser to the charity.
Madden did not manage to claim control over the Facebook page, which she said was being "administered by a disgruntled former employee".
In a statement on the Facebook page, Street Swags stressed that the charity is not closed, and that "the integrity of our organisation is beyond reproach".
The accusations levelled against Madden would "stand on their own merit in a court of law", a Street Swags spokesman told BuzzFeed News.
"If this is all proven then we have a judiciary responsibility to our donors and our volunteers to pursue the recovery of those misappropriated funds," the spokesperson said.
"Our core focus right now has to be on getting swags to people on the street. We've distributed 2000 swags in the last two months alone."
Gina Rushton is a breaking news reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
Contact Gina Rushton at email@example.com.
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