Charitable settlement of ‘dummy’ injured veterans involves Palm Harbor doctor and wife

The charity, founded by a Palm Harbor doctor, was called the Healing Heroes Network.

Its stated purpose: to use generous donor contributions for medical care, therapy and rehabilitation for veterans injured in Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11.

“Often these men and women are unable to receive the medical treatments that would help them return to productive civilian lives,” reads one fundraising letter.

But this year, after a multi-state investigation, the Florida attorney general’s office called Healing Heroes a “bogus veterans’ charity.” A recent court settlement would bar Dr Allan Spiegel, 68, his wife Stacey Spiegel, 59, and son Neal Spiegel, 31, from running a nonprofit for five years.

They will also pay $95,000 which will go to a veterans charity that provides the kind of services promised by Healing Heroes.

Healing Heroes Network, Inc. was formed in Palm Harbor in 2008, according to court records, and solicited donations through telemarketing and direct mail.

But “very few of the charitable contributions” went to care for injured veterans, the attorney general’s office said.

Instead, the money went to professional telemarketing fundraisers, advertisements, Stacey and Neal Spiegel’s salaries and T-shirts from a family member’s clothing company. , according to state officials.

In 2016 and 2017, Healing Heroes “falsely claimed” on social media that 100% of its profits went to injured veterans, the attorney general’s office said. During those two years, Healing Heroes provided or paid for medical services for only 10 veterans across the country, according to the civil lawsuit filed in Pinellas County court earlier this year.

In 2016, Healing Heroes revenue was $2.7 million. A small fraction of that amount — $13,387 — was spent on grants and other direct services to veterans, court records show.

“It’s outrageous,” Attorney General Ashley Moody said in a January news release. “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.”

Dr. Spiegel did not respond to messages left at his medical office. Stacey Spiegel could not be reached for comment. Lawyers listed in court documents did not respond to phone and email requests for comment. contacted by Tampa Bay WeatherNeal Spiegel declined to speak to a reporter.

Dr. Allan Spiegel talks to a patient in a hyperbaric chamber in 2008 in Palm Harbor.
[ Times ]

Healing Heroes disbanded in late 2017, and Hero Giveaways formed soon after. Court documents say Hero Giveaways did not use proceeds to provide benefits to veterans and their families “as advertised.” Hero Giveaways was voluntarily disbanded in 2019.

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In the settlement court documents, the parties agreed that Healing Heroes and Hero Giveaways can no longer solicit charitable donations. The Spiegels agreed to pay the $95,000 and cannot oversee, manage or solicit donations for a nonprofit for five years, the attorney general’s office said.

The procedure in Florida was part of a joint action with California, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia and Washington State. The multi-state settlement is final in Florida, but awaits court approval in another state before the $95,000 is collected and distributed.

In 2013, as part of a year-long survey of charities across America, the Times and the Center for Investigative Reporting reviewed Healing Heroes. The report cited a few red flags.

Related: America’s 50 Worst Charities Raise Nearly $1 Billion for Corporate Fundraisers

Dr. Spiegel, a specialist in hyperbaric oxygen therapy, recommended it to treat certain combat injuries, Times reported. Over a two-year period, when the charity said it spent about $160,000 on veterans services, it received more than half that amount.

Stacey Spiegel ran the nonprofit a few doors down from her husband’s doctor’s office and in 2012 earned $110,000 as treasurer, the Times reported.

To avoid possible charity scams, the Attorney General’s Office advises searching for the company’s name online with the word “scam” or “complaint.” Potential donors should also avoid being swayed by a charity’s name alone.

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