AG Says Fake Pinellas Veterans Charity Scammed Thousands

PALM HARBOUR, FL – Attorney General Ashley Moody and 10 other state attorneys general are recovering funds from a fake Palm Harbor-based veterans charity.

The takeover follows a multi-state investigation into Healing Heroes Network Inc. and its former directors Stacey Spiegel, Allan Spiegel and Neal Spiegel.

The investigation included a related entity, Hero Giveaways LLC, a company formed by Stacey Spiegel and Neal Spiegel that Moody says engaged in deceptive charitable solicitations, including deceptive senders of giveaways and a campaign of telemarketing.

The charities were located at 31640 US 19 N., Suite 2, Palm Harbor.

The multi-state investigation found the organizations falsely promised to use $95,000 in donations to help injured veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan receive medical treatment.

In 2016 and 2017, the charity also falsely claimed on social media that it dedicated 100% of its profits to injured veterans. The investigation found that very few of the charitable contributions made to the Healing Heroes Network were actually used to help injured veterans.

Instead, the donations were used to pay for professional fundraisers, online advertising costs, the salaries of Stacey Spiegel and her son, Neal Spiegel, and to buy t-shirts for the company of parent’s clothes.

“It’s outrageous,” Moody said. “The fact that anyone exploits the service and sacrifice of our wounded military heroes to solicit money under false pretenses deserves the highest level of contempt. Fortunately, following this joint action with my counterparts in other states , HHN will be prohibited from soliciting donations in Florida, and we will recover some of the illegally obtained donations.”

The stipulated judgment approved by the Pinellas Circuit Court demands that the Healing Heroes Network and Hero Giveaways permanently cease all charitable solicitations. The Spiegels also agreed to pay $95,000, which will be distributed to a veterans’ charity that provides services the Healing Heroes Network promised to provide. The Spiegels are also subject to a five-year ban on overseeing, managing or soliciting charitable contributions for any nonprofit organization.

In addition to Florida, state prosecutors from California, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia and Washington joined in the action against the fake Healing Heroes Network.

Assistant Attorney General Ellen Annaliese Bullock and Chief Assistant Attorney General Donna Valin of the Consumer Protection Division handled the case for the Florida Attorney General’s Office.

This action follows similar actions taken by the Florida Attorney General’s office and other states to stop fraudulent charities affecting veterans and the military. Funds recovered from judgments and settlements have been redirected to legitimate charities for veterans.

Three previous cases include a final judgment stipulated against Help the Vets Inc. and Neil G. Paulson Sr. of Orlando, charged with defrauding contributors of $20,405,287.

The attorney general’s offices also negotiated a $250,000 settlement agreement with Vetmade Industries Inc. and John S. Campbell of Tampa.

And Florida’s attorney general oversaw a stipulated order for a permanent injunction and money judgment against the American Veterans Foundation and Paul Monville of Sarasota, accused of defrauding contributors out of $6,584,282.

Moody’s reminds those who contribute to any charitable organization to:

  • Do research before donating. Search the name of the charity online with words such as “scam” or “complaint”. Look up the charity’s name on the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website or search for the organization using CharityWatch.org, CharityNavigator.org, and Give.org.
  • Avoid paying with cash, gift cards or bank transfers. Payment through these methods is difficult to track and therefore difficult to collect. Consider donating using a credit card, which tends to be more secure and traceable.
  • Make sure you know and trust the professional fundraiser who offers to send a courier to pick up a check or cash donation.
  • Research the name of the charity and don’t be swayed by the name of the charity alone. Often the names of charities are selected to have an emotional impact on specific groups of donors. For example, the names of many veterans’ charities often include the following words: ‘Veterans’, ‘Heroes’, ‘Wounded’, ‘Wounded’ and ‘Warriors’. That doesn’t always mean the charity will donate to named groups or prioritize that group over others, Moody said.
  • Ask what percentage of donations support charitable services. Also ask for the charity’s name, website, physical location, and phone number. It’s a red flag if the charity or fundraiser is unwilling to answer questions, Moody said.

The Florida Attorney General’s Office also publishes an annual Military Consumer Protection Guide with additional information for donors, service members, veterans and their families.

Moody’s Scams at a Glance program highlights other scams related to military or veterans.

Additionally, the Florida Attorney General’s Office has a Military and Veteran Assistance Program to help educate and assist military members and veterans with scams that target their communities.

If anyone knows of a scam targeting military members, veterans, or their families, they should report it to the Florida Attorney General’s office by calling 1 (866) 9NO-SCAM or file a complaint online.

The Healing Heroes Network’s website and social media pages were taken down, and the national organization Charity Watch declared the Healing Heroes Network “disbanded” on its website.

Patch left a message for Neal Spiegel for comment. There was no answer to Allan and Stacey Spiegel’s phone number.

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