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Former president of Fired Up For Kids Kirsten Hamling sentenced

6:44 PM, Dec 20, 2012   |    comments
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Hamling, 48, spent money which was donated for charity as her own personal piggy bank - spending it on travel, shopping and personal expenses. Meanwhile, she told everyone the money raised from the sales of the calendar was for the Children's Hospital Burn Center. 

She pleaded guilty in September. Hamling pleaded guilty to one count of theft and had other charges dropped as part of a plea agreement. She faced up to two years in jail and could have paid more than $250,000 in restitution.

On Thursday morning, she was sentenced to 10 years on probation and 90 days of jail-work release through Denver County. Hamling just needs to turn herself in later on Thursday. She also needs to pay the total of $250,000 in restitution.

Hamling's attorney defended her, saying "she made a mistake. She only should have registered as 501(c)3. I don't know why she didn't do that."

Hamling stood in front of the judge, pleading for leniency. 

"I truly wanted to help I think that I got in over my head, when things started to come to light and did cut some corners. I didn't do the right things because I did panic." Hamling told the judge Thursday. Words right now can't really express how sorry I am and how badly I feel. I don't want this case to define who I am. I'm a good person. I'm a good mother. I'm a good wife. I've spent decades giving back to charities. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about what I've done, and I have asked my family for help. I'm working hard, and I have to pay everything back. I ask you for leniency so I can continue to pay off this restitution. For me, that's my hope to make things right."

However, the judge made the case on Thursday morning that her crimes were not a one-time event. 

After the sentencing, Children's Hospital Colorado released the following statement:

"We're grateful that this issue has been resolved and that restitution will enable funds to go toward burn victims at Children's Hospital Colorado's Burn Center to help raise fire safety awareness in the community. The Children's Hospital Colorado Foundation's priority is to honor the selfless work by firefighters and volunteers associated with the firefighter calendar and to uphold the public trust in all philanthropic activities that support the work of Children's Colorado. We look forward to partnering with Colorado Firefighter Calendar and continuing the positive impact the calendar has made for the last eight years."

PREVIOUS INFORMATION

In December 2011, 9NEWS learned she was also the president of another local nonprofit called CauseBeats.

According to causebeats.org, it's "a nonprofit organization that connects popular recording artists, fans and nonprofits to causes with a mission to fundamentally change the face of philanthropy in the music industry."

Hamling was the former head of a group called Fired Up for Kids.

It's unclear when CauseBeats was formed. An automated response to a 9NEWS inquiry stated, "the start-up tested an online-video campaign and discontinued operations in July 2011."

Based on the statement of reservation of name filed with the Colorado Secretary of State's Office, the name CauseBeats was reserved in March 2011.

The company does not have a 501(c)(3) status with the federal government, and an IRS search for charities online does not list CauseBeats.

The Denver District Attorney's office investigated the allegation of theft from Fired Up For Kids. Hamling formed Fired Up For Kids and called it a "nonprofit" in multiple press releases and on its website until the DA's investigation started that fall. Fired Up For Kids raised money for the Children's Hospital Burn Center by organizing events with local firemen and selling the Colorado Firefighter Calendar.

Hamling's attorneys issued a press release following media inquiries in 2011 about the organization and her alleged personal spending of the donations, saying Hamling was the sole owner of the for- profit company called Fired Up For Kids.

"The company is not a charity and is not designed as a not-for-profit organization," stated the press release dated Nov. 9, 2011.

Hamling's attorney claimed she had the authority to spend the money raised any way she desired. The Denver DA's office told 9NEWS there were no allegations of wrongdoing connected to CauseBeats.

When 9NEWS started researching Hamling's connection to CauseBeats on Dec. 21, 2011, the CauseBeats Facebook page said the organization was founded by philanthropist Libby Anschutz Brown, but Hamling's LinkedIn page names her as president of CauseBeats.

"Through a handful of informal conversation with artists, we discovered a pattern. Most musicians had a real passion to give back but lacked the resources and expertise to execute impactful cause campaigns," said CauseBeats Founder and CEO Libby Brown, according to a Facebook posting 9NEWS saved before the CauseBeats page was altered.

Brown declined to comment for the 9NEWS story in 2011.

When 9NEWS checked the Facebook page on Dec. 22, 2011 and the basic information about CauseBeats had been altered to exclude Brown's connection to the organization.

John Arigoni, president and CEO of The Boys and Girls Club of Metro Denver told 9NEWS in 2011 that Hamling came to his organization earlier that year - pitching CauseBeats.

"They believed there are talent/singing groups that would like to make more of a statement in helping the community," Arigoni said. "So CauseBeats connected one specific band with the nonprofit."

Mindless Behavior was that band. It was featured twice on 9NEWS in Spring 2011 to promote CauseBeats.

Arigoni said Mindless Behavior wanted to show they're a group of kids interested in helping others. They came to Denver around Memorial Day weekend, did a community service project and performed at The Concerts for Kids.

"It was very successful for us, and the kids liked it a lot," Arigoni said. "Having a group of young men talking about community service, and the Boys and Girls Club was a great place to be and a good experience for us."

The kids also had a dance contest to Mindless Behavior music. The relationship between the Boys and Girls Club and Cause Beats stopped after the dance contest. That was the extent of the relationship and it was designed that way.

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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