BISMARCK, ND – Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem confirmed today that his office is investigating Minot resident Terpsichore “Tore” Maras-Lindeman, doing business as “A Magic City Christmas,” for alleged violations of the consumer fraud laws and charitable solicitation laws. The investigation was initiated in early December, 2017, after the consumer protection division received a media inquiry about claims made by Maras-Lindeman in fund-raising solicitations for a holiday concert supposedly to benefit charities in Minot. Maras-Lindeman is not registered as a charity or professional fundraiser.
“The charitable solicitation law and consumer fraud laws were enacted to protect members of the public. When anyone fails to comply with the reasonable requirements of these laws, it is my office’s duty to investigate and take any necessary action to protect consumers,” said Stenehjem.
When the consumer protection investigators made the initial contact in December last year, they informed Maras-Lindeman that state law requires a person to register with the Secretary of State before soliciting any charitable contributions, and recommended that she discontinue fund raising until she had registered with the Secretary of State. Maras-Lindeman ignored the investigators and for some time continued to solicit donations using the online fundraising sites GoFundMe and Fundly, through Facebook, her website, and by using direct solicitations to businesses in the Minot area.
As the investigation proceeded, investigators learned that Maras-Lindeman also had misrepresented her affiliation with both the Bank of North Dakota and the City of Minot in her solicitations. Without permission, and even after being advised that the Bank of North Dakota could not be a sponsor, Maras-Lindeman used the Bank’s logo in her website solicitations, magiccitychristmas.com. She also used the Coin of the City of Minot on her website and Facebook page, even after the City had repeatedly asked her to remove it. Maras-Lindeman ignored the City’s attempts to contact her and as a result, on October 27, 2017, the City of Minot was forced to issue a press release disclaiming any involvement with Maras-Lindeman or A Magic City Christmas. Even after the supposed benefit concert was then canceled, Maras-Lindeman continued to sell items, now claiming the proceeds were intended for homeless shelters.
The Attorney General’s investigation, which is ongoing, has been hampered by Maras-Lindeman’s refusal to provide requested documentation, information about her supposed charitable efforts, or even to be consistent in her responses. However, Maras-Lindeman has admitted to investigators that the money she raised from the solicitations went directly into the bank account for her business, ML Labs. Maras-Lindeman claimed that ML Labs (also known as ML Laboratory) was registered as a business entity in North Dakota, but only after the investigation was initiated did Maras-Lindeman register the trade name “ML Labs-Events” with the Secretary of State.
Stenehjem noted it has been very difficult to determine the truth among Maras-Lindeman’s various claims. However, he confirmed that the investigation already has determined that Maras-Lindeman has engaged in prohibited or questionable expenditures of donated funds received for the “A Magic City Christmas” event. Bank records confirm that donations were deposited in an October 2017 account and some donations later were used for purchases of fast food and QVC purchases. There also is evidence to suggest that when her personal bank account funds were depleted, Maras-Lindeman made personal expenditures from the donated funds accounts.
“My office offered Ms. Maras-Lindeman a very reasonable settlement for her violations of the charitable solicitation laws and misrepresentations to the public in connection with her solicitations and, unfortunately, she declined the settlement,” said Stenehjem. “Although she has every right to choose to contest the allegations, she must cooperate with our lawful investigation. Instead, she has chosen to make false claims about the purpose or nature of the investigation.”
The Attorney General is also concerned that Ms. Maras-Lindeman has been involved in many lawsuits in North Dakota and other states with different name variations.
“We are required to enforce the charitable solicitation laws for the protection of the public. Efforts by Ms. Maras-Lindeman to characterize the investigation as other than that, including her spurious effort at a frivolous ‘criminal complaint’ do not help. We are therefore determined to see that this matter concludes in a court of law,” said Stenehjem.
Press release here.