The district attorney's office Monday announced the settlement of a consumer protection lawsuit it filed against a Westminster private detective whose agency assists victims of domestic violence.
The district attorney's civil complaint alleged that William H. Holland misled prospective clients into thinking his services were free and then asked for donations, and falsely represented his business as a nonprofit organization.
As part of the settlement, Holland agreed to a court order that prohibits him from soliciting donations after representing that services are free, Deputy Dist. Atty. Bob Gannon said. Holland also pledged not to make false statements about the business' nonprofit status, Gannon said.
" 'Free' means free," Gannon said. "If it's free, you don't ask for money later on."
Holland, who said he does business as the Emerald Group, contends the complaint stemmed from misunderstandings and semantics.
The Emerald Group provides free services for victims of domestic abuse who cannot afford to pay, but charges women who have resources, Holland said.
"I have literally helped hundreds and hundreds of women," he said. "At the most, we have received a few hundred dollars from women who could afford it. Ninety-nine percent of the victims who come to us are destitute, and we didn't collect anything from them."
Holland also agreed not to use the names of the Nicole Brown Simpson Foundation, Women's Transitional Living Center and other such groups without their written permission.
Holland conceded the Emerald Group had labeled events to raise money "fund-raisers," which it cannot do without legal status as a commercial fund-raiser. Instead, he said, the group will call such events "benefits."
The Emerald Group has applied for nonprofit status and plans to form a separate entity to function as its fund-raising arm, he said.