Phony fundraisers go to jail

Written by APB Staff

There’s nothing that seems quite as slimy as a fund-raising hustle done in the name of fallen police officers or other public safety professionals. But that hasn’t stopped the ethically challenged from cashing in on the names of cops killed in the line. In Pennsylvania, Attorney General Tom Corbett announced the filing of a civil lawsuit against a Washington State husband and wife accused of using misleading or deceptive telephone solicitations to raise more than $500,000.

The lawsuit says that Pennsylvania residents believed any contributions they made would be supporting injured police officers, firefighters or veterans in their communities. Corbett said the civil suit was filed against Robert M. Friend and Shao Mei Wang, both of Gig Harbor, Washington.

The lawsuit also names three nonprofit corporations created and controlled by Friend and Wang. Those are the Disabled Firefighters Foundation, the American Veterans Coalition and the National Association of Disabled Police Officers, also of Gig Harbor, Washington.

“Pennsylvania residents were misled into believing that their contributions would benefit a variety of programs in their communities, including local fire departments and police departments, the families of firefighters and police officers, veteran’s programs and camps for children who suffered burns,” Corbett told reporters.

“Some callers also falsely claimed to be calling from local police departments and implied that they were law enforcement officers, when the calls were actually being made by paid telemarketers, who in many cases were probably prison inmates - a frequent choice of telemarketing outfits because of the low cost of labor.

According to the lawsuit, fundraising calls made to Pennsylvania residents between May 2004 and May 2008 generated a total of $528,000 in contributions, with “no indication of any direct benefit to any local fire departments, police officers, veterans or children’s burn camps operating in the state.

“Corbett said during that same period of time, federal tax documents indicate that Friend and Wang paid themselves more than $433,582 in salaries, and made an additional $927,000 in consulting fees, travel, benefits, and expenses.

Corbett said that Friend, Wang, and their companies are charged with numerous violations of Pennsylvania’s Charities Act and Consumer Protection Law.