FRANKFORT, Ky. (Legal Newsline) - Kentucky sheriffs and their deputies will be the beneficiaries of settlement reached between state Attorney General Jack Conway and a Texas-based charity and its solicitor that allegedly used deceptive fundraising practices.
The U.S. Deputy Sheriff's Associations and Courtesy Call, Inc., were investigated by the Attorney General's Office as part of the Federal Trade Commission's nationwide program to crack down on fraudulent charitable solicitors that claim to aid police, firefighters and veterans.
The defendants allegedly led donors to believe that any donations they made would be used in purchasing bulletproof vests and other equipment for local sheriffs' offices. Some donors were even allegedly told that the caller was employed by the local sheriff's office.
"In truth, these calls were coming from a telemarketing company and there was no expectation on the part of USDSA that these donations would be used to assist sheriffs and deputies in Kentucky," Conway said.
"Deceptive charitable solicitations not only exploit the generosity of our citizens, they do a disservice to the first responders who risk their lives to protect us."
The USDSA did donate some equipment to Kentucky law enforcement agencies. The average annual donation by the USDSA to the entire state of Kentucky was approximately $10,000, far below the actual amount raised.
The Kentucky sheriffs and deputies, as part of the settlement, will receive $71,500 in equipment donations - including bulletproof vests, tasers, digital cameras and radar guns - in addition to the average annual donation from the USDSA.
The USDSA and CCI voluntarily agreed to temporarily halt fundraising in Kentucky in May while the Attorney General's Office concluded its investigation.
An Assurance of Voluntary Compliance filed Oct. 15 in Franklin Circuit Court allows CCI to continue its charitable solicitations in Kentucky, but the company must identify itself to all call recipients as a paid professional solicitor in accordance with Kentucky laws.
CCI must also obtain written confirmation from its non-profit clients that verifies that CCI's scripts and representations are true and accurate.
All of the USDSA's scripts used by solicitors must also be approved in writing for use in Kentucky. False statements by the USDSA on its website about donations to Kentucky counties must also be corrected.
The companies will also pay Kentucky $30,000 for attorneys' fees and costs of investigation.