May 6, 2010
Jefferson City, Mo. -- Attorney General Chris Koster said today that participants in a charity scam will have to pay restitution and civil penalties totaling $544,933 for deceptive solicitations in Missouri. Koster's office had filed suit against the individuals for running an operation to scam Missourians by pretending to help veterans, firefighters and law enforcement officers.
Koster said Jeffery Duncan and Kathy Clinkenbeard, of Santa Ana, California, operated three sham nonprofit corporations: Coalition of Police and Sheriffs, Inc. (COPS); Disabled Firefighters Fund, Inc. (DFF); and American Veterans Relief Foundation, Inc. (AVRF).
COPS purportedly provided financial assistance to police officers and sheriffs' deputies who were disabled while on duty, and to families of officers and deputies killed in the line of duty, as well as promote public awareness of the dangers of law enforcement.
DFF claimed to offer financial assistance and enhance the qualify of life to disabled firefighters and families of firefighters who lost a spouse or parent in the line of duty; to support burn trauma centers that assisted burn victims; and to provide grants to organizations that furthered DFF's goals.
Ostensibly, AVRF would identify and provide assistance to veterans who had fallen through the cracks of the system through financial support to homeless veterans' facilities and veterans with nowhere else to turn. In addition, the company misrepresented to potential donors that it provided financial support to veterans' memorials.
Duncan and Clinkenbeard hired Valerie Hellwege, a Missouri-based professional fundraiser, to solicit donations in Missouri based on the numerous misrepresentations of COPS, DFF, and AVRF. In fact, less than 5 percent of the donations went to charitable programs, with the remaining donated funds going into the pockets of Duncan, Clinkenbeard, Hellwege, and the corporations' employees and contractors.
"It's contemptible that people would take advantage of decent, charitable Missourians by promising to use their money help the brave people who keep us safe," Koster said. "This action should be a message to fraudulent charity fundraisers that we will not tolerate this behavior in Missouri."
Koster said that in addition to the restitution and civil penalties, the court issued an order permanently barring the defendants from soliciting in Missouri.
Koster urged Missourians to check the Attorney General's "Check a Charity" website - ago.mo.gov - for information on charities and the percentage of their donations that are used for program services.