SEATTLE -April 9, 1997- The Washington State Attorney General's Office today filed lawsuits against three fund-raising organizations who use and abuse the name of police and fire fighters to deceive consumers and businesses into donating thousands of dollars each year.
The state's lawsuits are part of "Operation False Alarm," a nationwide sweep by the Federal Trade Commission and all 50 states. Washington's lawsuits were filed against Policemen/Firemen Killed in Action and its owner, Gawain Dominic (Nick) Borghi of Redmond; Cam-Ty Productions of Seattle and its owners, Robert J. Casey of Des Moines and Donald F. Crane of Woodinville; and the State Police Enforcer's Journal, published by Advantage Publishing and John Gilbert Robinson of Houston, Texas.
"The behavior of these fund-raisers is not only illegal, it's shameful," said Attorney General Christine Gregoire. "These organizations prey on the generosity of consumers and businesses who give to show support for local police and firefighters."
"The actions of Policemen/Firemen Killed in Action was particularly offensive in light of the tragic deaths of four Seattle firefighters two years ago," said Gregoire. "This telemarketer told people donations would be used to help families of police and firemen killed in action, but owner Nick Borghi admitted that not one dime of the money collected was given to any charitable cause," she explained.
Telemarketers working for Cam-Ty Productions misrepresented themselves as police officers when calling to ask for donations on behalf of local police and firefighter associations.
"Red flags should go up when a caller identifies himself as a police officer or a firefighter," said Gregoire. "These calls aren't made by people in uniform, they're made by professional fund-raisers who are breaking the law by not properly identifying themselves."
Washington State Patrol Chief Annette M. Sandberg applauds the action taken by the Attorney General's Office because the State Patrol is frequently the first agency that comes to the public's mind when these improper telephone solicitations are made.
"We try to impress upon the public that neither the Patrol, nor any other law enforcement agency operates in this manner," said Sandberg.
This kind of fund-raising serves only to undermine the public's confidence in the law enforcement community, according to Larry Erickson, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriff's and Police Chief and former Sheriff of Spokane County.
Businesses are also vulnerable to unscrupulous charitable fund-raisers. Advantage Publishing misrepresented itself to businesses as the "state police" when trying to sell advertisements in their State Police Enforcer's Journal.
"The strong-armed approach was used to get businesses to purchase advertisements," said Gregoire. "The underlying threat was that police protection wouldn't be available if they didn't contribute."
Businesses who declined to purchase advertisements in the journal were sent invoices anyway and if they ignored the invoice they were then subject to repeated early morning and late night collection calls.
Gregoire reminds consumers and businesses that the simple use of the words "police" or "firefighters" doesn't make the group legitimate nor does it mean donations will go to support local police or firefighter programs.
"Bogus charities often target senior citizens because they are more generous and more trusting," said Gregoire. "When they offer to send a courier to pick up your donation , you're dealing with a con artist, not a legitimate charity."
Before giving to any charitable organization, ask the caller to send you literature on the charity and then check with the Secretary of State at 1-800-332-4483 to see if it is registered and how the donations are distributed. To file a complaint against a charity contact the Attorney General's Office at 1-800-551-4636 or visit the Attorneys General Charity Page or the Federal Trade Commission for charity tips for consumers, businesses and fund-raisers.