AG: Deceptive charity claiming to help firefighters to cease operations

Posted: 12:14 PM, Aug 25, 2016
Updated: 2016-08-25 12:14:01-04

A charity that claimed to help firefighters and victims of fire will cease operations after misleading donors on where the money was going, according to the Michigan Attorney General’s Office.

The charity, known as Firefighters Support Services, located in Wyandotte, Mich., used deceptive phone calls to fundraise money for firefighters and victims. However, more than 90-percent went elsewhere, states a release.

Attorney General Bill Schuette announced Thursday that a settlement was reached, and as part of the settlement, the charity will dissolve their operations within 60 days.

Also, Firefighters Support Services’ three directors have agreed to pay $144,000 over the next three years, and its directors have agreed to never again serve as directors or officers for a charitable entity.

Three-quarters of the settlement amount will benefit the Southeast Michigan Chapter of the American Red Cross for the purpose of home fire relief. The remaining one-quarter will pay for the cost of the investigation, states the release.

“Michigan residents are very generous, but the unfortunate reality is that we all must be cautious of those that would exploit that generosity,” said Schuette. “The directors and officers of charities have a responsibility to the public to ensure that their organization’s solicitations are truthful. Today’s settlement protects the public by ensuring that the operators of this charity cannot deceive residents any longer. Donors should also remember to protect themselves by researching charities before donating.”

Firefighters Support Services raised $4.2 million from donors throughout the nation, but 90-percent of the charity’s expenditures when to fundraising costs, salaries and administrative costs, or to programs that were not disclosed in the charity’s solicitations, according to the release.

In May, Schuette issued a Notice of Intended Action alleging that the charity was using deceptive and misleading solicitation script, and had filed deceptive financial statements with the Attorney General’s Office.

The release states, in the filing, Schuette alleged that the charity’s solicitations deceived call recipients by informing them that they would help firefighters get better equipment and help ““families that have been burned out of their homes by providing them with food, shelter, and clothing” or “financial support.”

Firefighters Support Services was unable to identify any grants of food, shelter, or clothing to families that have been burned out of their homes. The charity was able to identify three grants of money totaling $5,586.06 to individuals for the purpose of fire loss relief. Despite being a prominent part of its solicitations, these grants represented just one-tenth of one percent of the $4.2 million raised during this period.