August 1st, 2010 | News, University

Schwartz ’11 supporter faces scrutiny

As the teammates, friends and family of Mandi Schwartz ’11, the women’s hockey forward battling leukemia, continue to rally across the country and world for her cause, one of Schwartz’s major benefactors has recently come under fire.

Tedd Collins IV, 53, a self-described New Haven-based clinical immunologist, has been at the forefront of the quest to locate a bone marrow or cord blood match for Schwartz, who is scheduled to undergo a transplant on Aug. 26; after Collins’s 26-year-old daughter, Natasha, died of leukemia last August, he founded two charities to locate donors for leukemia patients, through which he has raised more than $10,000 for Schwartz and other leukemia patients this year, according to The New York Times. But Collins’s work and reputation suddenly came into question this week after an article published Tuesday by the Times reported that he is the subject of a fraud investigation by federal prosecutors in Kentucky, and has been involved in a number of other lawsuits over the past decade.

The stories from Collins’s past are consistently similar: individuals who invested ten- and hundred-thousand dollar sums with Collins, only to never see their money again. Martin J. Reinholz, a Florida fire-rescue paramedic, for example, told the Times that he sent almost $200,000, to put in a trust for his daughter, to Collins in 2007. But Reinholz said he has not seen the money since.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 on Wednesday opened an investigation into Collins’s two charities: Become My Hero and Natasha’s Place.

“Neither charity, operated by the same individual, has properly notified my office of its alleged fundraising activity, as required by state law,” Blumenthal said in a statement Wednesday. The investigation will determine whether funds brought in by the organizations “have been used appropriately,” he said.

Collins, who did not respond to a request for comment from the News on Thursday, acknowledged his troubled legal history in an interview with the Times on Monday.

“It’s been a mess, and it’s been a long time to try to straighten it all out,” he said.

He told the Times several of the incidents were due to financial losses he suffered after the housing bubble burst, as well as his turning his attention from his business to his daughter’s illness.

Schwartz’s father, Rick, told the Times that while Collins had worked “tirelessly” to find a cord blood match for Mandi, the Schwartz family neither requested nor received any money from Collins on her behalf. The family also said it did not previously know of the allegations against Collins.

Yale spokeswoman Elizabeth Stauderman said in an e-mail Thursday that the University has cut ties with Collins and that it supports Blumenthal’s investigation.

“We suspended our connection with Collins when this [allegation of fraud] was announced by the Connecticut attorney general, and we’re cooperating fully with the Connecticut attorney general investigation,” Stauderman said in a phone interview Thursday.

She said the University had previously promoted Collins’s charities on the athletic department website, but that Yale had no further cooperation with Collins, to her knowledge. (Athletic Director Tom Beckett deferred comment to the Office of Public Affairs.)

Yale officials had eliminated most links to Collins’s charities from the athletic department’s website by Sunday afternoon, although at least one remained.

“Once we determined from Attorney General Blumenthal that they were investigating, we took steps to remove those [links] from our websites,” Stauderman said. “We severed that working relationship. Actually, I wouldn’t even go so far as to call it a working relationship — it was a connection.”

Former head women’s hockey coach Hilary Witt said in a phone interview that the allegations about Collins are “clearly disappointing.” Witt also said she had no idea where Collins — who routinely posted updates about Mandi’s health on the Facebook group “Become Mandi’s Hero” — got his information.

“As far as I’m concerned, that’s a privacy thing that should only come from the Schwartz family,” Witt said.

Aleca Hughes ’12, a forward on the women’s hockey team, said the situation with Collins is complicated because he has helped to direct Schwartz’s campaign for months and increased publicity for her cause — becoming especially involved this spring.

“Even though Dr. Collins has a history in fraud, his efforts have raised so much awareness for Mandi’s cause and for others with leukemia,” Hughes said.

She added that Collins, the creator of the “Become Mandi’s Hero” Facebook page, gave a “game plan” to people trying to help Schwartz when they were uncertain how to move forward.

“We’ve been acting on [Collins’s] advice and wishes,” Hughes said of herself and her teammates. “He’s orchestrated all of this and that’s why it’s so confusing. Even if he’s been stealing money… regardless, he’s helped. I hate to say it, but at least the awareness is there, even if the money is not.”

Hughes said she thought some money raised at drives for Schwartz had previously gone to Collins’s charities. But now that has changed: All the funds brought in at a goal-a-thon and bone marrow drive Hughes held Friday in Foxboro, Mass., will be sent directly to the Schwartz family in a check, she said.

While the University has cut ties with Collins, Stauderman said the Yale community will remain focused on Schwartz’s treatment and recovery and continue to work for her cause. More than 1,600 people have joined the National Marrow Donor Program’s “Be the Match” registry as a result of efforts on Schwartz’s behalf, according to a University statement published Tuesday, and more than 2,600 have joined a stem cell and marrow network in Canada. (Schwartz is a Saskatchewan, Canada, native.)

Schwartz is currently in Seattle preparing for her cord blood transplant, which is set to take place at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

Nora Caplan-Bricker and Esther Zuckerman contributed reporting.