Attorney General Frosh Announces Disbursement of More Than $1.8 Million in Charitable Contributions to Two Veterans Charities

News Release, Office of Attorney General Brian Frosh

BALTIMORE, MD (May 31, 2019) – Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh and the Maryland Secretary of State today announced that more than $1.8 million will be disbursed to two veterans charities as the result of a multi-state settlement with the Florida-based charity Help the Vets, Inc., and its founder, Neil G. Paulson, Sr.

In July 2018, Attorney General Frosh, along with the Federal Trade Commission and the attorneys general of California, Florida, Minnesota, Ohio, and Oregon reached a settlement with the charity and Paulson.  According to the terms of the settlement, Help the Vets is required to disgorge all of its remaining assets totaling $73,812.38, and Paulson is required to pay $1.75 million, for a total of $1,823,812.38., to be donated to charity.  Both Paulson and Help the Vets are also permanently banned from soliciting charitable contributions and participating in oversight or management of charities in the future.

Funds resulting from the settlement will be disbursed equally in two charitable contributions in the amount of $911,906.37 each to the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund and to Hope for the Warriors. 

“The resolution in this case allows the money to be used for purposes the donors intended,” said Attorney General Frosh.  “Sham charities hurt our communities by taking donor money under false pretenses, lining the pockets of scammers, and diverting resources from legitimate charities.”  

“I commend the cooperation between the states in achieving this significant outcome,” said Secretary of State John C. Wobensmith.  “We will continue our work to ensure charities who solicit in Maryland follow the law and honor donor intent.”

To help ensure your money goes to the charitable purpose you intend, please consider the following tips:

  1. When you receive a request to donate money, ask questions. Ask for the charity’s name, website, physical location, phone number, types of programs, and how much of the donated money supports the programs you want to support. If the charity is unwilling to answer your questions, that is a red flag.
  1. Research before you give.  Search the charity’s name online with the words “scam” or “complaint,” and check the following resources for information about the charity:
    1. Look up the charity’s name on Maryland’s Charity Database to ensure that they are registered and in compliance with any applicable reporting requirements.
    2. Charity Watch is available at https://www.charitywatch.org
    3. Charity Navigator available at https://www.charitynavigator.org
    4. BBB Wise Giving Alliance available at https://give.org
  1. Avoid paying with cash, gift cards, or wire transfers. Payment by these methods is difficult to track and therefore, difficult to recover. Consider donating by using a credit card, which tends to be more secure and trackable. 

Don’t be swayed by the name of the charity alone. Often, charity names are selected to have an emotional impact on specific groups of donors. For example, many veterans’ charity names often include “veterans,” “heroes,” “wounded,” “injured,” and “warriors.” This doesn’t always mean the charity will donate to the named groups or prioritize this group above others.  Do your research.

  1. If you have questions about information that appears on Maryland’s Charity Database or wish to report suspicious fundraising activity, you can contact the Charitable Organizations Division, Office of the Secretary of State, 16 Francis Street, Annapolis, Maryland  21401, 410-974-5534 / 800-825-4510 or submit a complaint online at https://sos.maryland.gov/Charity/Pages/Concern.aspx/

The Maryland Attorney General’s Office publishes the Maryland Veterans Resource Guide with additional information for veterans and their families: http://www.marylandattorneygeneral.gov/Pages/Maryland_Veterans_Resource_Guide.pdf

In making today’s announcement, Attorney General Frosh thanked Assistant Attorney General Josaphine Yuzuik for her work on the case. 

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