|Jefferson City — A Hollywood, CA organization that claims to financially support law enforcement has repeatedly made false claims in its telemarketing calls and has used harassing and intimidating tactics to solicit donations from Missourians, Attorney General Jay Nixon says.
Nixon filed a lawsuit today [July 24, 2007] in St. Louis City Circuit Court against Police Protective Fund Inc. (PPF) to stop misleading and harassing calls from the organization. Telemarketers working for PPF have made numerous calls into Missouri, representing that donations will help the families of law enforcement officers who die in the line of duty through PPF’s $10,000 “Line-Of-Duty Death Benefits” program.
Nixon says PPF took in more than $5.9 million in nationwide donations last year but only paid $37,000 through the benefits program to the families of police officers killed in 2006. Consumers who are solicited are not told that the benefits paid are limited to the first four officers who die in the line of duty in a calendar year, and that the benefits are capped at a total of $40,000 annually. The organization’s IRS filings show that more than $3.7 million of the $5.9 million PPF raised in 2006 was paid to professional fundraisers. From 2002 through 2006, PPF received more than $24 million in donations nationwide.
In addition, several consumers complained to the Attorney General’s Office that callers representing PPF often employed rude and intimidating tactics in order to obtain donations, and made repeated calls to consumers who asked not to be called.
“Many Missourians, particularly the elderly, have been bullied by telemarketers into making donations to this organization,” Nixon says. “Abusive telemarketing calls will not be tolerated in Missouri, particularly when they also contain misrepresentations to try to get a donation from the person being solicited.
“Citizens who want to support law enforcement programs – particularly local law enforcement – have many legitimate options with proven track records,” Nixon says. “I encourage them to call their local police or sheriff’s departments to ask how they can help.”
Nixon’s office is working with several police departments in the St. Louis area and other parts of Missouri on the case, because those agencies have forwarded complaints about PPF. Consumers contacted the police departments to complain because many received telemarketing calls from PPF in which the caller purported to represent the local police department. PPF calls often were routed through a local number, so consumers with Caller ID would be more likely to believe the call was local.
Another defendant, the American Association of Police Officers, also is named as a defendant in Nixon’s lawsuit. According to the lawsuit, the association is the administrative home for PPF and receives management fees from charitable donations received by PPF.
Nixon says the defendants repeatedly violated Missouri consumer protection laws by making misrepresentations and by using harassing and intimidating tactics in their calls.
The lawsuit asks the court to order the defendants to stop any telemarketing calls that violate Missouri law. Nixon also is seeking an order for the defendants to pay full restitution to any Missouri consumers who were harmed by the defendants’ actions, and to pay civil penalties and court costs deemed appropriate by the court.
--reprinted from the Missouri Attorney General's website
If you missed the article we posted 2-14-05, find it here.