CHARLESTON – West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw has joined at least 30 other states in suing a Wisconsin-based fundraiser, claiming it misrepresented to donors how much would go to the charities for which it collected.
McGraw, through assistant attorney general Christopher Hedges, filed a lawsuit May 20 in Kanawha Circuit Court against Community Support Inc. of Milwaukee.
According to the complaint, the defendant company is contracted by certain charities to solicit donations by telephone using telemarketers.
The company has represented numerous charities, the complaint says, including the American Breast Cancer Foundation, the Committee for Missing Children, the American Foundation for Disabled Children, the United States Deputy Sheriffs Association and groups representing firefighters and paramedics.
McGraw claims that what CSI telemarketers weren't telling potential donors was a lot.
For instance, the complaint says that donors weren't told that less then 10 percent on average of the collected donations were going to the actual charities. The majority of the donations – about 80 percent – were going to CSI and to pay administrative costs of the charities themselves.
McGraw says the telemarketers told potential donors that 100 percent of their donations would go directly to the charities.
McGraw further claims that telemarketers often misrepresented to potential donors that their donation would be used locally.
When collecting for veterans, police or fireman's groups, telemarketers would often fraudulently tell potential donors that they, themselves, were veterans, former policemen or former firemen.
When donors agreed to make a pledge, CSI would send the donor something that resembled a bill, the complaint says. If the donor didn't pay up, CSI telemarketers would make harassing collection calls to the donors, McGraw says.
McGraw's office is seeking fines of up to $5,000 for each alleged violation of CSI.
McGraw is also seeking restitution and court costs from the defendant as well as an injunction from a judge to prevent the company from continuing the alleged activities.
The case is before Kanawha Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman.
Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 09-C-947