Office of the Attorney General
"Operation False Charity" Law Enforcement Sweep
Attorney General Jack Conway today announced that Kentucky has joined with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and 47 states and the District of Columbia in a nationwide crackdown on fraudulent charitable solicitors claiming to help police, firefighters, and veterans.
"We are glad to be a part of 'Operation False Charity' and look forward to putting an end to deceptive charitable solicitations that not only exploit the generosity of our citizens, but do a disservice to local police, firefighters and veterans who risk their lives to protect us," said General Conway. "There are certainly reputable organizations helping our first responders, but charities and solicitors that mislead Kentuckians about how their donations will be used or who they will benefit will not be tolerated."
General Conway has reached an agreement with the United States Deputy Sheriffs' Association (USDSA) of Houston and its solicitor, Courtesy Call, Inc., of Las Vegas. This prevents both organizations from soliciting contributions from Kentuckians for 45 days. While USDSA and Courtesy Call, Inc. have not admitted any wrongdoing and there has not been any finding of wrongdoing, they are entering into an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance stopping all fundraising in Kentucky while the investigation is completed.
The Office of Attorney General's allegations include claims that USDSA and Courtesy Call, Inc. deceive donors by leading them to believe that their donations will be used to buy bulletproof vests for local sheriffs' offices.
"The solicitor tells donors that their donations will be used to help their local deputies or sheriffs and allegedly impersonates deputies so that donors believe it actually is the local sheriff's office calling for donations," said General Conway. Some Kentuckians who have received these solicitations have contacted their local sheriff's office, only to find out it is not asking for donations and has not received any funds or assistance from USDSA.
The Office of Attorney General also has joined with more than 30 other states in investigating and reaching a comprehensive consent judgment against a professional solicitor, Community Support, Inc.(CSI). In Kentucky, CSI has solicited on behalf of 15 organizations since 2006, including 11 police, firefighter and veterans' organizations. The allegations against the solicitor include that it misrepresented the amount of a donation that actually goes to the charitable organization, misled donors to believe their donations would be used only in Kentucky, and failed to disclose to donors that the person calling is a paid solicitor with CSI. The consent judgment is pending approval by the Franklin Circuit Court.
As part of the settlement, CSI has agreed to pay a total of $200,000 to be divided among the lead investigating states, including Kentucky, and to cease the conduct charged as wrongful by the various states. Additionally, CSI must document, in writing, the basis for any representations it makes to consumers about how donations are used.
"Our expectation is that CSI will be more careful about what it tells consumers when asking for a donation so Kentuckians can make an informed decision about whether they want to give to a particular charitable organization," said General Conway.
Kentucky will be paid $10,500 for its investigative costs and attorneys fees.
In December of 2008, General Conway also announced an assurance of voluntary compliance barring a charity, American Veterans Coalition, and its principals from soliciting contributions in Kentucky for 10 years. In that instance, the attorney general alleged that the group led donors to believe that a substantial amount of their donations would be spent on providing financial assistance to veterans, but of the $1,239,812 raised nationally in 2006, the Coalition only spent $7,400 in financial assistance to veterans nationwide. The group agreed to refund the entire $9,927.50 it raised in Kentucky, and Kentucky received $10,000 in reimbursement of the costs of the investigation.
While the Office of Attorney General works to prevent these kinds of deceptions, General Conway cautioned that donors also need to research and ask questions before they make a donation. The FTC today issued a new consumer alert providing tips about charities that solicit donations on behalf of veterans and military families. According to the alert, which can be found on the FTC website, while many legitimate charities are soliciting donations to support the nation's military veterans and law enforcement, not all "charities" are legitimate — some are operators whose only purpose is to make money for themselves. Others are paid fundraisers whose fees can use up most of your donation.
The Attorney General also recommends visiting the Office of Attorney General charity page for more information about charitable solicitations in Kentucky.
Other websites where consumers can check out a charity include: