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Charity fundraisers targeted in state lawsuits

May 30, 2009|David Colker

California has sued 17 telemarketers and 12 other organizations, state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown said Friday, as part of a national crackdown on charity fundraisers accused of passing little or no money on to legitimate charities.

Brown said the 53 individuals named in the state's suits "shamelessly exploited the goodwill of decent citizens trying to help police, firefighters and veterans."

Local groups named in the suits are:

* Rambret Inc.:

The Glendale company was accused of raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for a law enforcement youth program that never materialized. Instead, the state said, the money went toward overhead and personal expenses, including maintenance of a sailboat.

The suit asks that Rambret be forced to pay the money raised to legitimate charities.

The telephone number listed online for Rambret has been disconnected.

* Coalition of Police and Sheriffs, American Veterans Relief Foundation, Disabled Firefighters Fund:

These groups, which share a Santa Ana strip mall office, are accused of paying only about 2% of donations to legitimate charities. They also were named last week in a Federal Trade Commission suit.

The state action(cops).pdf seeks to shut down the operations, but the groups' attorney, Robert Moest of Santa Monica, said they were already "in the process of dissolving."

* American Assn. of Police Officers:

Formerly based in Los Angeles, the group is accused of falsely telling donors that its telephone solicitors were volunteer police officers. The suit said other infractions included a donor being told that contributors would receive decals to get them out of tickets.

A message left for an attorney associated with the group wasn't returned.

* Assn. for Firefighters and Paramedics:

The Santa Ana group is accused of misleading donors in several ways, including telling them that 80% to 100% of contributions would go toward helping local firefighters, paramedics and burn victims. The suit said that only about 10% went toward helping charities, and that none of the money stayed local.

Calls to the president of the group and its attorney weren't returned.

* Assn. for Police and Sheriffs:

Although the Fullerton group told donors that a majority of contributions would go to domestic violence victims, 90% went to paying commercial telemarketers, the state said.

A phone number for the group has been disconnected.

* California Organization of Police and Sheriffs:

The Ontario group, which raised $30 million from 2005 to 2007, is accused of telling donors that 100% of contributions goes toward buying bulletproof vests for police officers, grants to families of officers killed or injured, and other causes. But the suit said $25 million was paid to telemarketers. Most of the rest went to directors of the organization, with no money going toward vests or to the families.

Lou Silver, an attorney who works with the group, said it was "premature to comment" on the accusations.

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david.colker@latimes.com

Times staff writer Stuart Pfeifer contributed to this report.

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