Monday, June 1, 2009

Attorney General Jerry Brown's allegations about the California Organization of Police and Sheriffs

The Daily Bulletin reported that California Attorney General Jerry Brown has filed lawsuits against 12 charities, including the locally-based California Organization of Police and Sheriffs. More details can be found in the Attorney General's press release:

Los Angeles - As part of a nationwide crackdown on fraudulent charities, Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. is filing [on May 29] eight lawsuits against 53 individuals, 17 telemarketers and 12 charities that "shamelessly exploited" people's generosity and squandered millions of dollars of donations intended to help police, firefighters and veterans....

Brown filed these suits in conjunction with the Federal Trade Commission and 48 other states as part of a nationwide sweep called "Operation False Charity."

In California, just as in the other participating states, the so-called charities raised millions of dollars based on false claims that donors' contributions would benefit police, firefighters and veterans organizations. But in reality, these charities rarely benefit public safety personnel. And, in most cases, 85 percent to 90 percent of donations are used to pay the fees of for-profit telemarketing firms....

Brown is filing one suit against a charity and its fundraisers in San Bernardino County Superior Court:
- California Organization of Police and Sheriffs, based in San Bernardino.

Details are provided later in the press release:

San Bernardino:
People v. California Organization of Police and Sheriffs, et al.
Brown today sued San Bernardino-based California Organization of Police and Sheriffs, its directors, officers and its for-profit fundraisers - Civic Development Group, LLC and Rambret, Inc. -- for falsely representing that donations would be used to benefit law enforcement officers and that 100 percent of each donation would be received by the charity.

Donors were told that their contributions would be used to purchase bullet-proof vests, make grants to families of officers killed or injured in the line of duty, provide veterinary treatment for service animals injured in the line of duty and mentoring of at-risk youths.

Out of the $30 million raised from 2005 to 2007, over $25 million was spent on fundraising.

No money was spent on bullet-proof vests, no grants were made to families of officers, $6,600 was spent on veterinary treatment for service animals, and $16,500 was spent on mentoring.

Brown's suit against the charity, its officers, directors and for-profit fundraisers, contends that they:
- Conspired to defraud donors.
- Engaged in deceptive and misleading solicitation in violation of Government Code section 12599.6.
- Engaged in unfair business practices in violation of Business and Professions Code 17200.
- Used false or misleading statements when soliciting for contributions in violation of Business and Professions Code section 17500.
- Failed to use contributions for the purpose solicited in violation of Business and Professions Code 17510.8
- Violated federal regulations regarding deceptive and abusive telemarketing practices.
- Knowingly filed false public documents in violation of Corporations Code section 8215.
- Committed registration and reporting violations in violation of Government Code sections 12599 and 12599.6.

Brown seeks to dissolve the charity, to prevent the directors from operating a charity in California again, and to prevent the fundraisers from soliciting on behalf of a charity in California until they comply with state law.

He also seeks to recover misappropriated charitable funds and civil penalties in excess of $150,000 from the charity, its directors and its for-profit fundraisers.

Daily Bulletin reporter Joe Nelson was unable to obtain a statement from the charity, and there is no statement on the website about the lawsuit. However, the "contribute" page is listed as being "under construction." Although they have been fundraising; in 2007, Indybay reproduced the organization's 2003 financial statement, which lists $7,397,245 in revenue and $6,287,659 in expenses - most notably over $3.2 million in salaries, $449,001 in telephone expenses, and over $640,000 in rent, utilities, maintenance, and office supplies.

Oh, and building on some previous comments about journalistic outlets that basically run organizational press releases without editorial comment (Duncan Riley wrote about this in the Inquisitr, and I previously referenced it here), Government Technology re-ran a COPS press release in 2006, repeating some of the following and listing it as a "News Report":

COPS Executive Director Monty Holden remarked, "COPS is proud to offer peace officers and citizens access to a remarkable Web site dedicated to serving law enforcement and public safety. Please join us in our efforts to help peace officers and put the public back into public safety. Log on and find out how you can make a difference."...

COPS has a rich history and many friends who appear on the Web site including Michael J. Fox, United States Senator Dianne Feinstein, Jay Leno, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca, Mayor Rudy Giuliani and many more.

Um, I wouldn't count on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's support at this time. As for Government Technology, one of its own commenters (ahoge) pointed out the questions about COPS - something Government Technology didn't get around to doing.

I haven't seen any statements from COPS yet, and I don't recall receiving a fundraising appeal from them, and thus don't know what types of claims they make in their fundraising.

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