Attorney General's News Release
May 20, 2009
Attorney General Koster declares "Operation Broken Charity"
--Missouri cracks down on fraudulent fundraisers--
Washington, D.C. -- Attorney General Chris Koster today declared "Operation Broken Charity" in Missouri, announcing legal actions his office is taking against fraudulent charity fundraisers. Missouri's action is part of a nationwide "sweep" today of fraudulent fundraisers claiming to help police, firefighters and veterans. Koster made his announcement alongside Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz from the FTC office in Washington, D.C.
"All of us share a deep trust and respect for law enforcement officers, firefighters, and members of the military services," Attorney General Koster said. "Missouri's Attorney General's office has no intentions of standing idly by while greedy telemarketers take advantage of that trust and respect."
Koster revealed that his office was the lead on a 33-state group investigation into one of the nation's largest donation solicitors, Community Support, Inc., or CSI. The investigation found many deceptive practices by the fundraiser, including misrepresenting to residents that their contributions would be used locally, misrepresenting the percentage of their donations that would go to the charities, and misrepresenting to people that the solicitors themselves were members or retired members of police, firefighter, or veteran occupations.
In addition, the investigation found CSI told Missourians that their pledge was a collectible debt, and made numerous and harassing collection calls to these donors.
The multi-state investigation headed by Missouri has led to court injunctions filed in 33 states, including Missouri, to stop every illegal and objectionable tactic the Attorney General's office identified.
"The actions we are taking against Community Support, Inc., send a powerful notice to fraudulent charity fundraisers that we will not tolerate this behavior," Koster said.
Other legal action Attorney General Koster took today against fraudulent fundraisers includes:
Filed 18 criminal counts against an individual who claimed to be soliciting donations for handicapped veterans and other groups while he had no intention of using the funds for that purpose. The charges are against Richard Gordon Divers, Sr., from Independence, who claimed donations he was collecting would go to help handicapped veterans, assist senior citizens, or would be donated to a Lions Club. The Attorney General charged Divers with committing the felony act of Unlawful Merchandising Practices.
- Filed civil suit against Our American Veterans, Inc. (OAVI). Koster said Our American Veterans, Inc. is a sham nonprofit that claims to help homeless American veterans. But in reality, the vast majority of donations do not support veterans or any charitable purpose and instead support the defendant, Sidney Young, who operates Our American Veterans, Inc. In 2007, OAVI raised $591,000 and gave only $3,725 to veterans. The Attorney General is seeking civil penalties and restitution.
Filed a civil suit against several individuals who run sham nonprofits named Disabled Firefighters Fund, Inc., Coalition of Police and Sheriffs, Inc. and American Veterans Relief Foundation, Inc. Donors were told that their donations would be used to assist law enforcement officers and firefighters who were killed or injured in the line of duty, and their families, as well as needy veterans and for other charitable purposes. Only a nominal amount of the donated funds were used for those charitable purposes. Instead, nearly all the funds solicited were used to pay for commercial fundraisers or otherwise used for the personal benefit of the individuals being sued, including beer and other party supplies used by the employees and their friends, as well as travel to Hawaii and Las Vegas.
Missourians can check the Attorney General's Check a Charity website for information on charities and the percentage of their donations that are used for program services at ago.mo.gov.