Fraudulent Charity Stopped, Donations Given to DE Firefighters

ddStaff Report

Misleading charitable solicitations that were misrepresented as going to Delaware fire companies have ended as a result of an investigation and a Cease and Desist Agreement from the Delaware Department of Justice targeted at Firefighter Support Services, Inc., a Michigan organization, and almost $6,000 in contributions will be returned to the Delaware fire community.

The solicitations by Firefighter Support Services took the form of telemarketing calls where the callers would repeatedly use the terms “firefighter” or “firemen.” Under Delaware law, use of certain terms that refer to law enforcement personnel such as “firefighter” or “police” are prohibited unless the caller is actually a bona fide law enforcement officer or employee, or the caller has written permission from a Delaware law enforcement agency to use such terms in their fundraising campaigns. The calls had been brought to the attention of the Delaware Department of Justice by Delaware fire companies who said the calls had no connection to any fire companies in the state, and DOJ alerted the public to the calls in February.

To resolve the violations, the Consumer Protection Unit of DOJ entered into an agreement which sanctions Firefighter Support Services, Inc. for its violations of Delaware law through civil penalties and demands restitution of the near $6,000 in donations from Delawareans since 2011. These restitution amounts will be distributed to the Delaware Volunteer Firefighter’s Association, Inc., a local non-profit that counts all 60 Delaware fire companies as members and provides education, training, outreach and other services relevant to the Delaware firefighter community.

“It can never be stated enough how our fire companies protect our communities and it is the least we can do to aggressively pursue those who would trade on Delaware firefighters’ outstanding reputation for fraudulent donations,” Attorney General Matt Denn said. “I appreciate the fire companies that brought it to our attention and Deputy Attorney General Gillian Andrews and Special Investigator Alan Rachko for achieving the resolution in this case.”

Joseph Zeroles, President of the Delaware Volunteer Firefighters Association said, “It is sad when people take advantage of the great work done by the Delaware volunteer fire companies to pray upon unsuspecting citizens. We wish to thank everyone in the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit for their tireless effort in bringing this to resolution.”

The terms of the Cease and Desist Agreement also provide that Firefighter Support Services, Inc. shall not further violate provisions of Delaware’s charitable solicitation laws. In connection with this enforcement action, Firefighter Support Services, Inc. completely ceased its charitable solicitations in Delaware as of February 2016.

If you are interested in donating to your local fire company, the Attorney General encourages you to visit your local firehouse to drop off your donation in person, or donate directly to the fire company another way. A list of all local fire companies in Delaware and their contact information can be found at the Office of the State Fire Marshal at http://statefiremarshal.delaware.gov/information/fire_companies.shtml.

Anyone who suspects they have received a suspicious solicitation, the Attorney General encourages donors to call the toll-free Consumer Hotline at 1-800-220-5424 or email the Consumer Protection Unit at consumer.protection@state.de.us.

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