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May 19, 2016

Mich. Targets Firefighters Group for ‘Deceptive’ Fundraising

Michigan officials have effectively shut down a charity that purported to aid firefighters and victims of home blazes but paid most of the millions of dollars it raised to telemarketers, the Detroit Free Press reports. Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office issued a cease-and-desist order that effectively shuts down Firefighters Support Services of Wyandotte, Mich., blocking its fundraising contractor, Associated Community Services, from making any more calls on its behalf.

Authorities alleged “misleading, deceptive, or false statements” were used to raise $4.2 million from donors, who were told the money would go toward better equipment for firehouses and help for families “burned out of their homes.” The attorney general’s office said the nonprofit could identify only three grants totaling less than $5,600 it made to cover families’ fire losses and that the only equipment it bought was blankets for firehouses.

Professional fundraisers kept 85 percent or more of each donation, Mr. Schuette said in a statement. The charity’s listed resident agent could not be reached for comment. Southfield, Mich.-based Associated Community Services, which has faced reviews in multiple states over its solicitation practices, told the Free Press it is “cooperating fully” with the Firefighters Support Services investigation.