Attorney General Andy Beshear announced that his office assisted in shuttering the doors of a charity that misled thousands of donors by claiming contributions supported local veterans.
The settlement between 24 states and VietNow National Headquarters Inc., which also uses the name VeteransNow, dissolves the Illinois-based nonprofit corporation.
The agreement resolves thousands of deceptive solicitation violations and requires the charity’s directors and officers to cooperate in investigations into their professional fundraisers.
An example of the organization’s conduct is reflected in their most recent financial statement, when VietNow reported raising nearly $2 million nationwide with less than 5 percent of funds going to charitable programs.
Beshear said he is thankful the action comes at Veteran’s Day because the agreement ensures any remaining funds from VietNow’s closing will go to two national and well-respected veterans’ charities – Fisher House Foundation and Operation Homefront.
“It is a disgrace to falsely use veterans and veteran causes to lure in donors,” Beshear said. “My office will continue to work to stop scammers and frauds, especially those who try to take advantage of those who have sacrificed to serve our country.”
Beshear’s Office of Consumer Protection reports that up until the settlement VietNow had five ongoing promotions in Kentucky, and has had 16 campaigns since it first registered in the state in 2007.
The agreement states that since March 2015, VietNow was raising money using deceptive telemarketing solicitation scripts.
The charities professional fundraiser, Corporations of Character, called potential donors and wrongly claimed the charity gave a minimum of 12 percent, after expenses, back to local veterans.
Other scripts falsely claimed that VietNow provided medical facilities and treatment to veterans.
The investigation into VietNow for misrepresenting its charitable programs to donors began in 2017 by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.
In response to the investigation, VietNow admitted that it had not funded any programs that assisted veterans in Michigan and did not have local programs in most other states.
Attorneys General in California, Illinois and other states also launched an investigation into VietNow, which led to Kentucky’s involvement and the present negotiated resolution.
Beshear also reminds Kentucky donors who are not familiar with a charitable organization and how they use their money to verify what percentage of their income goes to the charity’s purpose on CharityNavigator.org. Additional research tools and resources can also be found on the Attorney General’s website.
Last year, Beshear’s office was involved in the largest joint enforcement action ever brought by state charity regulators. Joining with the Federal Trade Commission, agencies from all 50 states, the office helped to conclude a settlement that dissolved two sham cancer charities and banned the leader from future nonprofit work.