MADIGAN TAKES ACTION AGAINST FRAUDULENT CHARITIES,
Warns Illinoisans to be Cautious When Making Charitable Contributions
Chicago—Attorney General Lisa Madigan today announced enforcement actions against four fraudulent Illinois charities that have misrepresented their affiliation with local law enforcement and veterans groups to collect donations. The Attorney General's announcement is part of "Operation False Charity," a nationwide campaign with the Federal Trade Commission and Attorneys General, Secretaries of State, and other law enforcement agencies in 47 states and the District of Columbia, to crackdown on those charities intent on deceiving donors. The crackdown has resulted in more than 70 law enforcement actions against rogue fundraising companies, nonprofits and individuals.
These organizations capitalize on the good names of legitimate law enforcement and veterans support organizations," Madigan said. "We are taking legal action today to put a stop to these fraudulent practices, but we are also putting consumers on alert to be on the lookout for these kinds of fundraising scams."
In Illinois, Madigan filed lawsuits today against the following defendants:
Madigan also announced that her office recently obtained a judgment in Cook County Circuit Court against the American Association of Police Officers (AAPO), its founding officers, David Dierks and Phillip LeConte, its Illinois fundraiser, Vet-Pol Advertising, Inc.(Vet-Pol), and Vet-Pol's President Peter Ruderschmidt. In 2004, Attorney General Madigan filed a lawsuit against the defendants for falsely informing potential donors that the fundraisers were law enforcement officers. As a result of the 2004 lawsuit, the defendants later reached a settlement agreement that required AAPO to supervise Vet-Pol's fundraising activities. The defendants violated that 2004 settlement, however, and Madigan filed a new suit in 2006, alleging that Vet-Pol engaged in unregistered fundraising on AAPO's behalf and the fundraisers falsely claimed to be police officers. False representation in fundraising is a violation of the Illinois Solicitation for Charity Act. The judgment prohibits AAPO from soliciting contributions in Illinois for three years, imposes a $10,000 penalty and requires Vet-Pol to cease operating as a professional fundraiser.
Finally, Madigan announced that she has reached a settlement with Community Support, Inc. (CSI), a Wisconsin-based professional fundraiser that represents nearly 30-40 charitable organizations across the country. The CSI settlement is the result of the work of a 31-state task force, including Illinois. The task force established that CSI employed solicitors who falsely told potential donors that they were either current or retired members of local police and fire departments or the U.S. military. Further, CSI telemarketers allegedly mislead donors to believe that a substantial portion of their donation would benefit local charitable causes when, in fact, the organization contributed to very few if any charitable causes in the donors' local areas. As part of the settlement, CSI will take affirmative steps to ensure that its solicitors clearly identify themselves as professional fundraisers and not as local law enforcement officers. CSI also will not claim that donations benefit local causes unless substantial portions of the charity's programs are actually distributed in that consumer's state or local community.
State officials participating in today's national sweep include the Attorneys General of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
As part of today's crackdown, Attorney General Madigan and the FTC urged consumers to remember the following tips when considering making a charitable donation to veterans and law enforcement-oriented charities:
Better Business Bureau
American Institute of Philanthropy and Charity Navigator