Attorney General Becerra Announces Settlement Against Deceptive Veteran Charity for Misleading Donors Through False Solicitations
Healing Heroes falsely claimed 100 percent of their donations went towards helping wounded veterans when only 10-15 percent of donations went towards their intended purpose
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today joined a coalition of 11 attorneys general in securing a multistate settlement against a deceptive veteran charity, Healing Heroes Network, Inc. (Healing Heroes), and its former directors, Stacey Spiegel, Allan Spiegel and Neal Spiegel. The settlement resolves allegations that the former directors engaged in deceptive charitable solicitations, falsely claiming that 100 percent of the organization’s donations went towards helping veterans. Healing Heroes and its former directors will pay $95,000 in restitution towards a legitimate tax-exempt charitable organization to ensure that veterans receive the donations that they are entitled to.
“Healing Heroes grossly misled donors into believing that 100 percent of their charitable donations would help a veteran in need. That couldn’t be further from the truth.” said Attorney General Becerra. “Today’s settlement sheds light on deceptive charities and serves as a reminder to all – always do your research and ask questions before making a charitable donation.”
Healing Heroes, a Florida-based non-profit, was formed in 2008 to provide therapy, services, and assistance to veterans. A multistate investigation revealed that the charity engaged in deceptive sweepstakes mailers and telephone solicitations, promising to use donations to help wounded veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan receive medical treatments that the Department of Veterans Affairs did not readily provide. Additionally, it was found that in 2016 and 2017 Healing Heroes falsely claimed on social media that 100 percent of the donations that it received went towards helping veterans. The investigation uncovered that from 2015 until its dissolution in late 2017, Healing Heroes only spent an average of 16 percent of its gross annual revenue on charitable programs, spending the remainder on internet ad placements and professional fundraisers. For example, in California the fundraisers sent out on average 3,800 direct mailers per month to the state’s residents, grossing $874,000 total, with Healing Heroes netting only $87,400 to $131,000, while the rest went towards fundraising expenses.
Under the terms of the settlement, Healing Heroes and its former directors must:
- Pay $95,000 to a veterans charity whose mission matches the representations made by Healing Heroes when they were soliciting donations from the public;
- Agree to pay $400,000 in monetary relief in the event that the defendants violate any terms of the settlement agreement;
- Permanently cease operations and restrain from all charitable solicitations; and
- For five years from the effective date of the settlement, Stacey J. Spiegel, Neal A. Spiegal, and Allan M. Spiegel are banned from overseeing, managing, or soliciting charitable contributions for any nonprofit organization.
In California, the Attorney General has primary responsibility for supervising charities and professional fundraisers who solicit on their behalf. The California Department of Justice investigates the loss and misuse of charitable assets, fraudulent and misleading solicitation practices, improper reporting practices and other breaches of fiduciary duty. Charities are required to register and file annual financial reports with the Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra is committed to protecting the generous donations of Californians. In July 2020, he announced a lawsuit against the animal rescue charity, Little Love Rescue, for misleading donors and unlawfully soliciting donations. That same month, he announced a $7 million settlement against the Lithuanian Assistance Foundation resolving allegations that the organization’s officers and directors improperly transferred charitable assets to members of the board, their relatives, and employees. In May 2019, Attorney General Becerra and the Federal Trade Commission secured a $1.8 million settlement against Help the Vets, Inc. for misleading donors about its cause and defrauding donors out of millions of dollars in donations. Among other actions, he reached a multistate settlement with VietNow National Headquarters, Inc., a charity that falsely claimed to help veterans; and he sued two bogus charities, Wounded Warriors Support Group and Central Coast Equine Rescue and Retirement, for pocketing the proceeds of charity raffles that were supposed to benefit veterans.
In securing the settlement, Attorney General Becerra joins the attorneys general of Maryland, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia and Washington.