November 16, 2006
St. Charles, Mo. — An O'Fallon fundraiser whose organization solicited donations over the phone by misrepresenting that the caller was a police officer will pay $50,292 in restitution and donate $5,000 to a local children's hospital. Gerald J. Lami, who did business under the name Police Tribune, also is prohibited from acting as a fundraiser in Missouri under the terms of the consent judgment obtained by Attorney General Jay Nixon.
“Missourians have always given great support to law enforcement, and we don't want to jeopardize that goodwill by a professional fundraiser who attempts to solicit funds through deceit,” Nixon said today at a news conference at Ranken Jordan Hospital in Maryland Heights, where he was joined by several area community police officials.
The Attorney General was also joined by Laurie Tanner, President and CEO of Ranken Jordan. Nixon presented Tanner with a check for $5,000 to aid the hospital's Family Assistance Program and to purchase Christmas presents for the hospital's child patients during the holidays.
“With the holiday season just around the corner, it is important that Missourians have confidence that the money they donate to charity goes to its intended purpose,” Nixon continued. “Scams like ‘badge fraud’ tend to make citizens with good intentions less inclined to give. It's entirely appropriate that this defendant ends up actually donating to a worthwhile charity after his business used the good name of law enforcement to defraud consumers.”
Nixon obtained a temporary restraining order in August 2005 in St. Charles County Circuit Court against Lami and his son, Jay Lami, of Beaufort, that froze Police Tribune assets. Jay Lami is now deceased.
Business owners in St. Louis, Fenton, St. Peters, Maryland Heights, O'Fallon, Florissant, Kirkwood and other communities complained to local police after they received phone calls from the Police Tribune. 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 and to make charitable donations, purportedly to benefit law enforcement-related programs and organizations. Prospective donors were told the programs would benefit survivors of officers killed in the line of duty and provide shopping trips to underprivileged youth. If the business owner agreed to make the donation, a courier was often sent to the business to pick it up.
The Police Tribune was not registered as a professional fundraiser or a charitable organization with the Attorney General's Office, as required by law. That meant there were no records on file with Nixon's office showing how much, if any, of the donations raised actually went to charity.
According to the judgment, the defendant is prohibited from operating as a fundraiser in the state of Missouri. The defendant's investment account with Fidelity Investments will be closed and from that account:
Nixon said that consumers can help protect themselves against fraudulent charitable solicitations by:
“Take the time to do a little homework, and know what questions to ask, when you are considering giving to a charity,” Nixon said. “If you are a smart giver, and don't give in to high-pressure solicitations, you can be assured that your money is going where you want it to go.”