Attorney General Laxalt Joins FTC, all 50 States to Combat Fraud Charities Claiming to Help Military
Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt’s office is partnering with the Federal Trade Commission, law enforcement officials and charity regulators from every state, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam and Puerto Rico in a sweeping new donor education campaign called “Operation Donate with Honor.” The campaign highlights a crackdown against fraudulent charities that con consumers by falsely promising their donations will help veterans and service members. Collectively, more than 100 actions are being taken around the country against charities, fundraisers and individuals who misuse charitable donations intended to help our military.
As a part of today’s campaign, AG Laxalt’s office, along with 15 other attorneys general, settled with Operation Troop Aid, a Tennessee-based charity that claimed to send care packages to deployed service members. Operation Troop Aid participated in an unlawful charity co-venture with nationwide retailer Harris Originals of New York (Harris Jewelry) and its related incorporated stores. Operation Troop Aid and Harris Jewelry had a several-year unwritten agreement wherein Harris Jewelry publicly advertised that money from the purchase of teddy bears dressed in military uniforms would be donated, depending on the bear’s size, to Operation Troop Aid. During the period of the co-venture, Harris Jewelry sent Operation Troop Aid checks without documentation outlining how the donated amount was calculated, and at times provided different information to consumers as to the amount of money that was donated to the charity.
In reaching a settlement, Operation Troop Aid acknowledged that its operations lacked oversight, including ensuring that Harris Jewelry was donating the full amount advertised to the public. Operation Troop Aid also acknowledged that it kept insufficient records and failed to ensure that donated monies were expended for the stated charitable purpose. It further recognized that at times it made other purportedly charitable expenditures directly to individuals at the sole discretion of its chief executive, with no application or assessment process or action by its board. Under the terms of the settlement, Operation Troop Aid has agreed to cease operations and enter into an agreement, which includes dissolution, penalties, and an injunction barring its chief executive from serving as a fiduciary or soliciting for any nonprofit organization.
“Fraudulent charities that falsely claim to help our service members and veterans dishonor the heroic efforts of the men and women serving in our military,” said Laxalt. “My office is honored to participate in this national effort to combat fraudulent charities purporting to benefit our military. I am proud that my staff took a leadership role in the Operation Troop Aid case, and we will continue to take action against illegitimate charities that perpetrate fraud. I encourage Nevadans to generously donate to worthy charitable causes, but to do so wisely.”
“Operation Donate with Honor” pairs enforcement actions with an educational campaign in English and Spanish, to help consumers recognize charitable solicitation fraud and identify legitimate charities. This includes a new video below that highlights tips on how to research charities on giving wisely to veterans organizations.
The Office of the Nevada Attorney General encourages potential donors, regardless of where or how they choose to donate, to learn how to spot fraudulent and deceptive solicitations in an effort to ensure their contributions actually benefit veterans and service members. When donating to a charity, Nevadans are encouraged to:
- Ask for the charity’s name, website and physical location;
- Ask how much of your donation will be sent to the charitable program you want to support;
- Search the charity’s name online with the word “scam” or “complaint” in order to view any negative reviews or enforcement actions against the charity;
- Read about the charity’s ratings at the Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Watch or Charity Navigator;
- Never pay with cash, a gift card or by wiring money; and
- Consider paying by credit card, which is the safest option for security and tax purposes.
In addition to Nevada, other states that participated in the Operation Troop Aid settlement include: California, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington.