<
>

Kurt Busch's ex-girlfriend charged with stealing from military charity

WASHINGTON -- The former girlfriend of NASCAR driver Kurt Busch was charged Tuesday with stealing from a military charity she led.

Court documents don't say how much prosecutors believe Patricia Driscoll took from the District of Columbia-based Armed Forces Foundation, whose mission is to support service members, veterans and their families.

But a 2014 tax form for the nonprofit says that the "foundation has become aware of suspected misappropriations" by Driscoll totaling more than $599,000 for the years 2006 to 2014. It says she misused money for meals, travel, parking tickets, makeup and personal gifts.

Driscoll, 38, was indicted on seven federal charges: two counts each of wire fraud, mail fraud and tax evasion, and one count of attempts to interfere with administration of Internal Revenue laws. She also faces a first-degree fraud charge under District of Columbia law.

Driscoll is expected to surrender and enter a plea on Wednesday.

The indictment alleges Driscoll falsely categorized and caused others to falsely categorize expenses in the foundation's books and records as being for veterans and their families, "when in fact they were for her own private benefit." She is also accused of concealing from the foundation's accountants money she took from the charity, such as foundation funds being spent on office space in a building that she co-owned.

Driscoll was part of "a scheme" to allegedly use "forged documents, false accounting entries, inflated donation amounts, and false statements in order to convince donors to give money to the AFF, thereby enriching herself," according to the indictment.

Driscoll declined to comment when reached Tuesday, referring questions to attorney Barry Pollack.

"It's a sad day that this matter has progressed to criminal allegations," Pollack told ESPN. "The charges are completely unproven. Ms. Driscoll looks forward to having the opportunity to contest them in court."

The joint FBI-IRS investigation began in 2015 after ESPN's Outside the Lines reported on questionable practices by Driscoll during her 12-year run as executive director of the foundation, which has ties to sports-related entities, including NASCAR.

Among the practices raised in the Outside the Lines reports:

• Documents show the Armed Forces Foundation had, in effect, been repeatedly used as a bank to lend money for or pay various personal expenses, including bills for a private company Driscoll owns.

• The nonprofit's federal tax filings and audit reports in some instances failed to match, resulting in unexplained discrepancies about the amount of cash on hand, the mismatches totaling in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

• Until May 4, 2015, the foundation paid Driscoll and another person $96,000 in annual rent for its headquarters -- a building they co-owned -- which is operating in apparent violation of Washington zoning regulations.

Documents also showed personal expense issues: The foundation wrote a $15,000 check toward Driscoll's legal fees to a law firm involved in her child-custody case; it paid $6,315.22 for an infrared security camera shipped to her Maryland residence; and it picked up the tab for personal expenses on vacations to Paris and Morocco.

Alongside Driscoll's $171,027 foundation salary, documents show she received substantial bonuses for fundraising -- none of which was declared on the foundation's tax filings or audit reports reviewed by Outside the Lines.

In addition, records show that, for 17 months in a 19-month stretch in 2012-13, the foundation paid the credit card bill of Driscoll's private security business, Frontline Defense Systems. The FDS charges totaled more than $100,000 and included massage treatments, dermatology visits and other personal medical expenses, toy store purchases and grocery bills, among others.

Driscoll and Bush had a very public breakup in 2014 after she accused him of physically and verbally abusing her about a week after they split. Driscoll said Busch smashed her head into a bedroom wall and choked her in his motorhome at Dover International Speedway in Delaware.

Law enforcement officials said there was not enough evidence to bring criminal charges against him, but a family court commissioner in the state ultimately granted her request for a protective order requiring Busch to stay away from her.

As a result, NASCAR suspended Busch two days before the Daytona 500. He sat out the first three races of the 2015 season before being reinstated.

ESPN investigative reporter Mike Fish and the Associated Press contributed to this report.