Mo. AG: Online donations never reached Joplin churches
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Legal Newsline) - Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has obtained a consent judgment against a Puerto Rico-based foundation that he says fraudulently solicited donations online to help victims of the Joplin tornado.
Soon after the May 22 tornado, Alivio Foundation Inc. began soliciting donations through a PayPal link on its website and through Crowdrise, an online conduit for donations. Alivio said that the donations would be given to St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Marshfield and Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri to be used to assist survivors and relatives of Joplin tornado victims. Alivio posted pictures on its website of the Joplin devastation and links to various news stories about the tornado.
Koster alleges that neither religious organization ever heard of the Alivio Foundaion prior to his filing the actions, and that no Joplin-area churches received any funds from it. Koster also alleges that there was no record of the Alivio Foundation giving funds to any organization helping Joplin residents before he obtained a temporary restraining order against the foundation.
"Unfortunately, there are always those who will take advantage of unsuspecting consumers during times of tragedy," Koster said. "We will continue to be aggressive in going after those who engage in charity scams or other fraudulent behavior affecting Joplin's recovery."
Under terms of the agreement, Alivio is prohibited from further soliciting donations in the state and must transfer all funds ostensibly collected for Joplin tornado victims to Koster's Merchandising Practices Restitution Fund, to be distributed to the tornado victims through St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Marshfield and Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri. The amount is close to $9,000.