Palm Harbor family accused of running Sham Veterans Charity
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 administrators Stacey Spiegel, Dr Allan Spiegel and Neal Spiegeland a related entity, Hero Giveaways, LLC, a company created by Stacey Spiegel and Neal Spiegel for their use of deceptive charitable solicitations, including deceptive promotional mailings and a telemarketing campaign.
The multi-state investigation found that the organizations had falsely promised to use the 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 revealed that very few of the charitable contributions received by HHN were used to further this charitable mission. 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 clothing.
Dr. Spiegel runs the Neurological Solutions medical practice, located off US-19 in Palm Harbor.
Attorney General Ashley Moody said: ‘This is outrageous. 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, as a result of 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 HHN and Hero Giveaways permanently cease all charitable solicitations. Stacey Spiegel, Allan Spiegel and Neal Spiegel also agreed to pay $95,000, which will be distributed to a veterans’ charity that provides similar services to those HHN had represented. The defendants are also subject to a five-year ban on supervising, managing or soliciting charitable contributions for any nonprofit organization.
In addition to Florida, the action has been joined by the states of California, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia and Washington. Assistant Attorney General Ellen Annaliese Bullock and Chief Assistant Attorney General Donna Valin of the Consumer Protection Division handled this action 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, resulting in the recovery of donations totaling $2,340,572 that were redirected to charities that would use the funds to help veterans and the military. Three prior cases include a stipulated final judgment and permanent injunction against Help the Vets, Inc.; a settlement agreement with Vetmade Industries, Inc.; and an order stipulated for a permanent injunction and a monetary judgment against the American Veterans Foundation and Paul Monville.
To avoid charity scams, Floridians should:
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 recover. 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 chosen to have an emotional impact on specific groups of donors. For example, many names for veterans’ charities often include the following words: veterans, heroes, wounded, injured, and warriors. This does not always mean that the charity will donate to named groups or prioritize this group over others; and
Ask what percentage of donations support charitable services. Also ask for the charity’s name, web address, physical location, and phone number. It’s a red flag if the charity or fundraiser is unwilling to answer questions.
The Florida Attorney General’s Office publishes the Military Consumer Protection Guide annually with additional information for donors, service members, veterans and their families. To view the latest guide, click here. Attorney General Moody’s Scams at a Glance highlights other military or veteran related scams and can be viewed here.
The Florida Attorney General’s office also has a Military and Veteran Assistance Program to help educate and assist military members and veterans about the types of scams that target their communities. For more information on the MVAP, click here.
If anyone knows of a scam targeting our military, 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 at MyFloridaLegal.com.