Office of the Attorney General
Kentucky Sheriffs and Deputies to Receive Needed Equipment in Settlement over Allegations of Deceptive Fundraising Practices by Charity
Attorney General Jack Conway is pleased to announce that Kentucky sheriffs and their deputies will benefit from a settlement reached between his office and a Texas-based charity and its solicitor over allegedly deceptive fundraising practices.
The Office of the Attorney General began investigating the United States Deputy Sheriff’s Association (USDSA) and Courtesy Call, Inc. (CCI) in May 2009 as part of the Federal Trade Commission’s nationwide crackdown on fraudulent charitable solicitors claiming to help police, firefighters and veterans. USDSA and CCI allegedly deceived donors by leading them to believe that their donations would be used to buy bulletproof vests and other equipment for their local sheriffs’ offices. In some cases, the solicitor is alleged to have told donors that the caller was actually employed by the local sheriff’s office.
“In truth, these calls were coming from a telemarketing company and there was no expectation on the part of USDSA that these donations would be used to assist sheriffs and deputies in Kentucky,” said General Conway. “Deceptive charitable solicitations not only exploit the generosity of our citizens, they do a disservice to the first responders who risk their lives to protect us.”
While USDSA has donated some equipment to Kentucky law enforcement agencies, its average annual donation for the entire state was only approximately $10,000, much less than what was actually raised. The $71,500 in equipment that will be donated to Kentucky sheriffs and deputies is in addition to USDSA’s average annual donation, and shall be given to sheriffs and deputies who submit an equipment request application. The Office of the Attorney General is sending applications to all Kentucky sheriffs’ departments. The equipment to be purchased by USDSA could include bulletproof vests, tasers, digital cameras and radar guns, among other items.
“I appreciate the Attorney General’s office for its work in combating deceptive charitable solicitations that have taken thousands of dollars from our state. This settlement will ensure that local sheriffs’ departments across Kentucky will receive much needed equipment,” said Warren County Sheriff and President of the Kentucky Sheriff’s Association Jerry “Peanuts” Gaines.
In May, USDSA and CCI voluntarily agreed to temporarily halt fundraising in Kentucky while the Attorney General’s Office concluded its investigation. As part of an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance (AVC) filed October 15 in Franklin Circuit Court, CCI can continue its charitable solicitations in Kentucky, but must identify itself to call recipients as a paid professional solicitor in accordance with Kentucky law, and obtain written confirmation from its non-profit clients verifying that the scripts it uses and the representations it makes are true and accurate.
USDSA must also correct false statements appearing on its website about donations to various Kentucky counties, and it must approve, in writing, all the scripts used by any solicitors that fundraise in Kentucky. Additionally, USDSA and CCI will pay $30,000 to the Commonwealth of Kentucky for its attorneys’ fees and costs of the investigation.
“Kentuckians are generous people who want to give back to those who keep us safe. I hope you will join me in continuing to support our local charities, but to make sure that when you give, you’re giving wisely. If a charitable solicitor claims to be raising funds on behalf of a local organization, contact the organization to verify that it is conducting a fundraising event,” said General Conway.
Consumers can also contact the Office of the Attorney General, Consumer Protection Division at 888-432-9257 or visit http://ag.ky.gov/civil/consumerprotection/charity/ to find out more information about the solicitor and the charitable organization.
As part of the settlement, USDSA and CCI have not admitted any wrongdoing and the AVC is not a finding of any wrongdoing.