Bellevue start-up fights charity fraud

Sunlight Payments is making sure donated money goes to the right people.

Money given to a non-profit goes through a lot of hands before it gets to those who need it.

Unfortunately, not all of those hands are clean. Experts estimate about 5 percent of the money distributed by non-profits never make it to those in need.

"U.S. non-profits reported about $2 trillion in revenues in 2015. You do the math: 5 percent of $2 trillion is $100 billion in fraud," said Aaron Sparks, CEO of Sunlight Payments.

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He is a former white collar crime investigator now training his eye on those trying to defraud charities around the world.

With none other than Bill Gates as a primary investor and Bank of America Merrill Lynch as a financial services provider, Sunlight tracks payments from charities to recipients, making sure none of those middlemen take what is not theirs.

There are serious concerns over monies being siphoned away from saving lives to nefarious efforts, including terrorism.

The company recently completed a test of its pipeline, moving money from Massachusetts-based NGO Pathfinder International to villages in Tanzania and Uganda.

It was a success, allowing Pathfinder's donations to flow unimpeded into the troubled countries to support women's health issues.

The successful completion of the pilot payment allows Sunlight to begin fully marketing the system to philanthropic organizations worldwide.

"People always say they'd like to give to a cause, but they're not sure the money will get to the right place," said Sparks. "We provide a payment transparency and tracking service that restores that confidence."