Charity falsely represented that donations would help local vets ~
In an effort to combat deceptive charities that target Virginians supporting veterans, Attorney General Mark R. Herring today announced a settlement between 24 states and VietNow National Headquarters, Inc., an Illinois charity that falsely represented that donations would help local veterans, resulting in the organization’s dissolution.
“Virginians are caring, big-hearted people who want to help veterans who risk their lives for this country. Charities that dishonestly solicit funds from donors who wish to help veterans are wrong and will be held accountable for their efforts to mislead Virginians,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “This action will send a strong signal to other organizations to be honest when they ask for money for such causes, and make sure they follow through on their promises.”
Since March 2015, VietNow-which also uses the name VeteransNow-had been raising money using deceptive telemarketing solicitation scripts. The scripts told potential donors that VietNow gave funds back to veterans in the donors’ state; other scripts stated that donations helped local veterans in the donors’ state. Despite these representations, VietNow admitted to the states that it had not funded programs that assisted veterans as represented, nor did VietNow have local programs in most states. Other VietNow scripts falsely claimed that VietNow provided “medical facilities and treatment” to veterans.
The settlement resolves the allegations and investigations by appointing a receiver to dissolve VietNow. The settlement also obtains injunctive relief against VietNow’s directors and officers and requires their cooperation in investigations of VietNow’s professional fundraisers. Upon dissolution, VietNow’s remaining funds will be paid to two national veterans’ charities, Fisher House Foundation and Operation Homefront. Four of VietNow’s directors and officers will also be permanently enjoined from serving as charitable fiduciaries or acting as professional fundraisers.
Virginia’s settlement is in the form of a Consent Judgment filed for approval in the Circuit Court of the City of Richmond.
This matter was handled by Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section. In 2016, Attorney General Herring announced the completion of a reorganization of the OAG Consumer Protection Section to more efficiently and effectively enforce Virginia’s consumer protection laws, provide exceptional customer service in resolving complaints and disputes, and provide robust consumer education to keep Virginians from being victimized by fraud, scams, or illegal or abusive business practices. During Attorney General Herring’s administration the OAG Consumer Protection Section has recovered more than $234 million in relief for consumers and payments from violators.
If you have any consumer-related inquiries, the Office of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline telephone counselors are available to assist you. Please call the Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-552-9963 if calling from Virginia, or 804-786-2042 if calling from the Richmond area. You can also subscribe to the Consumer Protection Quarterly Newsletter here.
Original press release can be found here.