Virginia Wins Settlement Against Fake Veterans Charity | state and national

RICHMOND — Attorney General Mark R. Herring has joined an 11-state coalition to seek a settlement with a Florida-based veterans’ charity called Healing Heroes Network, Inc. and its former directors, Stacey Spiegel, Allan Spiegel and Neal Spiegel .

The settlement resolves allegations of deceptive senders of sweepstakes and telephone solicitations to help injured veterans. Under the terms of the settlement, Healing Heroes Network, Inc. and associated organization Hero Giveaways, LLC must permanently cease all charitable solicitations to help injured veterans, and the Spiegels have agreed to pay $95,000 to provide an organization charity for veterans whose mission matches the representations made by the charity.

The Spiegels are banned for five years from overseeing, managing or soliciting charitable contributions for any nonprofit organization.

“Organizations and individuals who mislead kind-hearted Virginians who only want to help veterans and the military are despicable and must be held accountable,” said the herring. “Deceptive charities will not be tolerated in the Commonwealth and my Office will continue to vigorously pursue bad actors who take advantage of the kindness of Virginians to line their pockets. I want to encourage any Virginian who is considering donating to charity to do your research and make sure you are donating to legitimate and reputable organizations.

The investigation found donors contributed millions of dollars as a result of deceptive raffle mailings and telephone solicitations. The organization promised to use the donations to help injured veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan receive medical treatment that the Department of Veterans Affairs did not readily provide.

The charity also falsely claimed on social media in 2016 and 2017 to dedicate 100% of profits to injured veterans. Investigation revealed that very few of the charitable contributions received by the Healing Heroes Network 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 t-shirts from another family member.

Also part of the settlement is Hero Giveaways, LLC, a company formed by Stacey Spiegel and Neal Spiegel after Healing Heroes Network, Inc. was the subject of a multi-state investigation and prosecuted the deceptive practices of the organization.

The states of Washington, Florida, Ohio, Oregon, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico and California join Attorney General Herring in this agreement to regulation. This action is part of Operation Donate With Honor, a nationwide sweep of consumer protection law enforcement, Attorney General Herring has joined in the fight against veterans fundraising fraud through education and application.

Operation Donate With Honor was coordinated in 2018 by the Federal Trade Commission and the National Association of State Charities Officials, to target fraudulent charities affecting veterans and groups that claimed to use their donations to help former US service members , but which were in fact designed primarily to enrich association founders and professional fundraisers.

Virginia’s settlement is in the form of a consent judgment, which was filed and approved by the Richmond City Circuit Court.

Tips to remember when donating to charities and other organizations:

  • On crowdfunding sites:

  • Check the credentials of the creator or owner of the page and try to confirm its authenticity and seriousness

  • Look for endorsement or legitimacy indicators that the page is actually collecting donations for a particular victim or organization. Some sites offer verification and transparency measures for campaigns. Look for these authenticity markers and review the site’s fraud protections

  • Be careful and if you feel uncomfortable, contribute to a more established charity in the community

  • Beware of charities that spring up overnight in connection with a current event or natural disaster. They can convince you to donate, but even if they are legit, they may not have the infrastructure or experience to get your donation to the affected area or people.

  • Donate only to charities and fundraisers that you can confirm are reliable and legitimate. Discuss charities with consumer advocates or friends and find out how much of your donation will go to the charity’s programs and services

  • Beware of “copycat” names that sound like reputable charities. Some scammers use names that closely resemble those of respected and legitimate organizations

  • Be especially careful if you do not initiate contact with the charity

  • Don’t be forced to give. Legitimate organizations don’t expect you to contribute immediately

  • Ask for written information about the charity, including name, address and phone number. Legitimate organizations will provide you with documentation about the charity’s mission, how your donation will be used, and proof that your contribution is tax deductible. Just because a “charity” has a tax ID doesn’t mean your contribution is tax deductible

  • Avoid cash donations. Make checks payable to the charity and not to the order of a person collecting a donation. For security and tax record reasons, you may wish to pay by credit card

  • If you’re donating over the Internet, make sure the website you’re visiting belongs to the charity you want to donate to. See if other legitimate websites will link to this website. Make sure the website is secure and offers protection for your credit card number

  • If a charity is soliciting contributions in Virginia, check its registration with the Office of Charity and Regulatory Programs (“OCRP”) of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at (804) 786-1343, or by searching the OCRP charities database. in line

  • While a legitimate charity should be registered with OCRP to solicit contributions in Virginia, registration alone does not mean the organization will be effective.

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