Pa. and Ohio attorneys general sue scammers posing as firefighters
By Adam Brandolph
Published: Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, 6:42 p.m.
Attorneys general in Pennsylvania and Ohio filed civil lawsuits on Wednesday against a Youngstown company that solicited charitable donations for firefighter organizations and pocketed most of the money.
The lawsuits by Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said Encore Music Productions Ltd. sought donations for four organizations in Pennsylvania and more than 30 in Ohio by selling tickets and business advertisements for concerts.
An investigation found that Encore and associated companies trained telemarketers to falsely identify themselves as volunteers or firefighters; hired more than 13 felons; failed to register with the Pennsylvania Department of State's Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations; and told donors 100 percent of the money would go to a charity, but only 10 to 33 percent was donated.
“Encore purposefully hired and trained telemarketers to scam Pennsylvanians who believed they were supporting local firefighters,” Kane said. “The Office of Attorney General has zero tolerance for any fraudsters that take advantage of the generosity of Pennsylvanians.”
The suit said Encore brought in more than $286,000 between 2008 and 2012 on behalf of firefighter groups. It's unclear how much money they received.
In addition to Encore, the five-count lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania names Phil's Productions of Youngstown, MVP Productions of Cambridge, Ohio, Joseph Chiovitti and Philip Howells of Youngstown and Martin Vernello of East Liverpool, Ohio.
The lawsuit alleges the companies violated the state's Solicitation of Funds for Charitable Purposes Act.
“These telemarketers used misleading tactics to solicit donations from Ohio families under the pretense of supporting police and firefighters,” said DeWine, who filed his 42-count lawsuit in Allen County Court of Common Pleas. “In some cases, they even pretended to be firefighters. This situation required immediate action to prevent further deception and fraud.”
DeWine's suit alleges violations of Ohio's Corrupt Activities Act and the Ohio Charitable Organizations Act — including money laundering, mail and wire fraud, theft and deceptive acts and practices.
A judge granted a temporary restraining order against Encore, pending a permanent shutdown that would redistribute the donations to legitimate charities.
Adam Brandolph is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-391-0927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Likely loss of Steelers draft pick looms because of Tomlin misstep
- Rossi: Penguins’ Orpik among select NHLers going without gluten
- Aliquippa RB Swanson commits to Toledo
- Penguins’ Orpik taken off ice on stretcher in loss to Bruins
- Worst of winter storm expected to miss Pittsburgh
- Nelson Mandela: The real legacy
- Breaking down the Pirates’ needs entering winter meetings
- State police kill knife-wielding suspect in child abduction from Brentwood
- Steelers’ playoff hopes all but gone in loss to Dolphins
- Controversial Rooney Rule has opened door for NFL minority coaching candidates
- Four injured in Ambridge bar shooting overnight