Brown Reaches Settlement with Charity for Burn Victims Over Deceptive Fundraising Tactics
LOS ANGELES — Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced a settlement with a charity that “betrayed the trust of its donors” by using deceptive fundraising tactics and diverting thousands of dollars from the care of burn victims to pay for meetings in resort communities.
“The trustees of this charity grossly abused their responsibilities as guardians of charitable assets,” Brown said. “They betrayed the trust of donors by squandering donations on such things as an expensive Caribbean cruise and trips to posh resorts.”
The Association for Firefighters and Paramedics, Inc., based in Santa Ana, misrepresented how and where donations would be spent, and mailed out invoices for pledges that had never been never made. Board members also diverted $33,000 from the charity for out-of-town board meetings in San Diego and Las Vegas, and a Caribbean cruise for board members and their families before a meeting in Florida.
The settlement, filed in the Orange County Superior Court, recovers $100,000 in funds diverted from the charity, plus attorney’s fees and investigative costs. For the next four years, the charity’s fundraising materials and program expenses will be closely monitored.
In May 2009, Brown’s office filed eight lawsuits against 12 charities and 17 fundraising groups that performed telemarketing on their behalf. The lawsuits were filed as part of a nationwide effort to crack down on fraudulent fundraising activities by or on behalf of charities with names that give the false impression that the charities are associated with public safety organizations.
Through its investigation, Brown’s office obtained a list of California residents who donated to the Association for Firefighters and Paramedics. Responses to a questionnaire sent to those California residents revealed that telemarketers calling on behalf of the charity told people their donation would be used to help pay for the care of burn victims in their area, along with supporting the fire department and paramedics in their town.
The charity’s website reiterated this claim, noting that the charity would seek out cases “within a reasonable radius of your area so that the impact of your donation can be felt close to home.”
In fact, the grants were only made to Southern California residents, even though funds were solicited nationwide, and none of the funds were used to support local fire departments or paramedics. Further, donors who asked were told that 80 to 100% of their donation would go to the charity when, in fact, the charity received less than 15 percent. Eighty to ninety percent of the donations received were used to pay for the charity’s fundraising expenses.
A copy of the settlement with the Association for Firefighters and Paramedics is attached.