The state of Ohio’s Attorney General has announced that a major non-profit charity organization inside of the state has defrauded at least $4.2 million from Ohio donors.
A new lawsuit by the Attorney General's office announced that the organization, known as “Cops for Kids”, was secretly misleading its investors and donors in an effort to score profit before serving the self-proclaimed charitable interests.
“We believe that the evidence will show that the defendants misled donors and put their interests above the charitable mission they claimed to support, while collecting millions, millions of dollars from unsuspecting generous Ohioans,” DeWine said.
The lawsuit accuses Cops for Kids Inc. (also known as Ohio Cops for Kids) of collecting more than $4.2 million in donations from Ohio residents between the years 2005 and 2015, but then spending less than two percent of it on their charitable efforts.
An overwhelming majority of those funds (roughly $3.3 million) were apparently paid to Telcom Enterprises (the charity's for-profit solicitor) for fundraiser fees.
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“Well-meaning Ohioans gave to Cops for Kids believing their dollars would help Ohio children or support local law enforcement. Instead, an overwhelming percentage of donations were kept by the group’s for-profit fundraiser or the men who operated it,” Attorney General DeWine said. “We believe Cops for Kids is a sham operation that has defrauded Ohioans out of millions of dollars while performing almost no legitimate charitable work.”
At least two Cops for Kids organizers, Thomas Duffy and Charles Hitzel, both of Ashtabula, Ohio; are each named in the lawsuit, along with Telcom Enterprises.
The AG's office is seeking to ban them from soliciting donations in Ohio and to also dissolve the charity and provide criminal damages for the thefts which they claim occurred.
The Cops for Kids organization has yet to comment via their<a href="https://www.facebook.com/ohiocopsforkids/"> Facebook </a>page, and has offered no public response to the lawsuit or the allegations made against them.
Attorney General Mike DeWine issued a statement with advice for legitimate charitable organizations, and donors, giving them suggestions as to how and prevent illegal activities.
The statement said the following:
<blockquote>”Develop a giving plan. Determine in advance which charities you want to support. Respond to unexpected or unwanted requests by explaining that you already have a giving plan in place or that you need written information to evaluate a request.”</blockquote>
<blockquote>”Research charities. Find out if an organization is registered with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, verify its tax-exempt status with the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Select Check, and gather data from organizations such as the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Watch, and Charity Navigator. View the organization’s IRS Form 990 on Guidestar. Review program descriptions, expenses, compensation levels, and other details. Conduct a basic internet search to review a group’s accomplishments or questionable activity.”</blockquote>
<blockquote>”Ask how your donation will be used. Keep in mind that some charitable giving requests come from professional solicitors who are paid to collect donations. By law, solicitors must identify themselves, and if you ask, they must tell you what percentage of your donation will go to the charity. (It may be only a small percentage.) Contact charities directly to find out how they use donations. Get information in writing. Compare a charity’s materials with information you gather from other sources.”</blockquote>
<blockquote>”Watch for red flags. Be wary of high-pressure tactics, requests for checks made out to an individual (instead of a charity), charities with only a few people on their board, and people who are unable or unwilling to answer questions about their organization. Don’t provide your credit card number or other personal information to callers who contact you unexpectedly.”</blockquote>
If both consumers and those wishing to assist in charitable contributions follow these guidelines it should help to ensure that the gift of giving can continue with scams being able to overtake an organization's goals.
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