August 15, 2005
St. Charles, Mo. — Attorney General Jay Nixon today cracked down on "badge fraud" by suing a father and son who were soliciting donations from St. Louis-area businesses by misrepresenting that the telemarketers doing the soliciting were police officers.
"Missourians give great support to law enforcement, but that goodwill should not be exploited by a professional fundraiser to solicit donations through deceit," Nixon said today at a news conference in St. Louis, where he was joined by several area community police officials.
"Pretending to be a police officer to obtain a donation is something we won't tolerate, particularly when the final destination of the donation is a mystery."
Nixon obtained a temporary restraining order in St. Charles County Circuit Court against Gerald J. Lami (LAMM-eye), of O'Fallon, and his son, Jay Lami, of Beaufort. Gerald Lami does business under the name Police Tribune, Jay Lami under the name Safety Promotions. The order freezes the Safety Promotions account of Jay Lami.
Business owners in St. Louis, Fenton, St. Peters, Maryland Heights, O'Fallon, Florissant, Kirkwood and other communities complained to local police after they received telephone calls from Police Tribune or Safety Promotions. Many times, the callers falsely identified themselves as being police officers. The police forwarded the complaints to the Attorney General's Office.
The business owners were solicited to purchase advertising in the Police Tribune or make other charitable donations, purportedly to benefit law enforcement-related programs and organizations. They included programs to benefit survivors of officers killed in the line of duty and programs to provide shopping trips for underprivileged youth. If the business owner agreed to make a donation, a courier often was sent the same day or the next to the business to pick it up.
Neither Police Tribune nor Safety Promotions is registered as a professional fundraiser or a charitable organization with the Attorney General's Office, as required by law. Nixon said that meant there are no records on file with his office showing how much, if any, of the donations raised actually went to charity. Nixon said his office would try to determine how the money was used as the lawsuit against the Lamis proceeds.
The lawsuit says the defendants are violating Missouri consumer protection laws by:
In addition to freezing the fundraising accounts of the defendants, the temporary restraining order issued by Circuit Judge Lucy D. Rauch prohibits the Lamis or their representatives from further violations of Missouri consumer protection laws. Nixon is asking for preliminary and permanent injunctions against the defendants, and is seeking restitution for consumers and penalties for the state. A hearing on Nixon's request for an injunction is set for Aug. 29.
Nixon said that consumers can help protect themselves against fraudulent charitable solicitations by:
"It's important to be a smart giver," Nixon said. "By asking the right questions, by doing some homework, and by not giving in to high-pressure solicitations, you can be more assured that your money is going where you want it to go."