SEATTLE – Some Washington consumers who donated to Veterans of Western Washington or Blind Children Services of Puget Sound will receive refunds under two court orders, Attorney General Rob McKenna announced today.
Snohomish County Superior Court Commissioner Lester Stewart signed documents on Aug. 15 finding that Veterans of Western Washington, a sole proprietorship based in Lynnwood, and co-owner Robert Melbourne Shay, of Edmonds, violated Washington’s Consumer Protection and Charitable Solicitations laws.
“These judgments will help assure that Robert M. Shay and Veterans of Western Washington cannot solicit charitable donations unless they comply with state laws and provide potential donors with important information about how their money will be spent,” McKenna said.
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division sued Veterans of Western Washington, Blind Children Services of Puget Sound and individuals connected with those organizations on Jan. 18. The state alleged the defendants illegally solicited donations under numerous names even after the Secretary of State’s Office canceled their registrations, revoking their authorization to raise funds. They also claimed to represent organizations they weren’t affiliated with.
Allegations against Blind Children Services and three other individuals named in the complaints are still pending.
Shay and Veterans of Washington agreed to a stipulated judgment requiring the following:
- They will pay $3,005 in restitution to consumers who made donations to the organization after October 26, 2004.
- They will pay $120,000 in civil penalties, but that amount is suspended provided they comply with order and certain injunctive provisions concerning their fundraising practices. Specifically, they can’t solicit charitable contributions or engage in commercial fundraising without registering with the Secretary of State’s Office and complying with recordkeeping requirements. Nor can they solicit donations under the name, registration number or tax-exempt number of any other organization without that organization’s written consent.
- They will pay to the state $13,840 in attorneys’ fees and costs, with half of that amount suspended.
Shay, as an individual, must also pay $613 restitution for his involvement with Blind Children’s Services of Puget Sound. Shay manages the organization’s finances. An order requires him to pay $120,000 in civil penalties, but that amount is suspended provided he complies with certain conditions. The order includes injunctive provisions similar to those in the Veteran of Washington case.
Allegations are still pending against Michael Joseph Shay, of Edmonds, and Marcello Manuel Graniel, of Guam, in connection with the Veterans of Western Washington suit. Darin Anthony Dewitt, of Everett, is named in the case against Blind Children Services.
The defendants will pay restitution to the Attorney General’s Office, which will refund eligible consumers who made donations to Veterans of Western Washington after Oct. 26, 2004 or to Blind Child Services of Puget Sound after May 6, 2005.
The Attorney General’s Office alleged Graniel and the Shays solicited donations under the name Washington State Veterans League. Washington State Veterans League failed to renew its charitable organization registration, prompting the Secretary of State’s Office to cancel its registration on Dec. 17, 2002.
The men then solicited donations under the name Veterans of Western Washington. Graniel was the organization’s president from at least July 2002 until Dec. 18, 2005, during which time the organization operated as a nonprofit corporation. Robert Shay and Michael Shay took over the organization immediately thereafter, operating it as a sole proprietorship.
The Secretary of State’s Office canceled Veterans of Western Washington’s charitable organization registration on Oct. 26, 2004, but the organization continued to solicit donations through at least April 2006. The registration was revoked because the defendants solicited donations under other names that had not been registered with the state, including Children’s Cancer Alliance, Hospitalized Children’s Society and Coalition Against Domestic Violence, as well as the names of two other organizations, Family Services of Puget Sound and Handicapped Children’s Services, that were not connected to the defendants.
Robert Shaw also managed the finances for Blind Children Services of Puget Sound. Dewitt is the organization’s sole proprietor. Blind Children Services of Puget Sound was registered as a charity in Washington from April 9, 2003, until May 6, 2005, when the Secretary of State’s Office canceled the registration because the organization failed to renew. The Attorney General’s Office alleges the defendants continued to solicit donations until at least March 2006.
Veterans of Western Washington Complaint
Blind Children Services of Puget Sound Complaint
Veterans of Western Washington Stipulated Judgment and Order
Robert M. Shay Stipulated Judgment and Order re: Blind Children Services of Puget Sound
To confirm that a charity is registered in Washington, call the Secretary of State’s Charities Information Hotline at (800) 332-4483 or search online at www.secstate.wa.gov/charities.
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Media Contacts: Assistant Attorney General Shannon Smith, (206) 389-3996
Kristin Alexander, Media Relations Manager - Seattle, (206) 464-6432