Iowa AG files suit against Fla. fundraiser

Bryan Cohen Aug. 16, 2012, 1:31pm


DES MOINES, Iowa (Legal Newsline) - Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller filed a lawsuit Wednesday against a Florida-based professional fundraiser that allegedly deceived Iowa residents to generate donations for multiple non-profit clients.

The lawsuit against Courtesy Health Watch Inc., a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based for-profit company, alleges that CHW told potential donors that making a donation would stop future solicitation calls when it actually led to additional solicitations, told a would-be donor that other consumers usually donate higher amounts than the $20 that is most commonly donated, misled Iowans by insinuating that the caller was directly connected with the charity as opposed to being employed by a telemarketing company and exaggerated or obscured how much of the donation went to a worthy cause or was used in the consumer's own community.

"This lawsuit alleges that Courtesy Health Watch exhibits a pattern of deceptive solicitations, sometimes calling individual Iowans again and again to make donations despite assurances that they make calls only once a year," Miller said. "Our undercover phone line caught these telemarketers in the act, revealing what we allege to be a variety of misleading claims."

The lawsuit also alleges that Iowans of retirement age were called repeatedly by the company.

"The lawsuit alleges that Courtesy Health Watch made repeated solicitation calls to an 82-year-old Keokuk woman on behalf of its various charity clients," Miller said. "We allege that they called her about once a month over a three year period. We're concerned that this escalation of contacts could drain the resources of Iowans whose advanced age may make them vulnerable."

CHW solicits donations on the behalf of multiple non-profits, including the Breast Cancer Relief Foundation, the Organ Donation and Transplant Association, National Wheelchair Basketball, Miracle Flights for Kids, Childhood Cancer Research Coalition, Children's Leukemia Research Association and the National Cancer Coalition.

The charities allegedly received 10 to 15 percent of the money donated with no charity receiving 30 percent or more of the proceeds.

The lawsuit requests that the court prohibit CHW from making deceptive calls to Iowa residents and require the company to pay attorney fees and civil penalties.

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