Charity banned in Iowa
Miller: Organization claimed to help disabled police officers
An investigation into a letter seeking donations for disabled police officers has led to a charity being banned in Iowa.
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller announced Friday that the settlement bars the National Association of Chiefs of Police, of Titusville, Florida, as well as Barry Shepherd and Brient Shepherd, from soliciting donations by mail to Iowans.
Miller said the settlement, “called an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, contains a five-year ban on any Iowa fundraising by NACOP or by the Shepherds in the name of any other law enforcement-related charity, and a permanent ban on any misleading donation requests.”
“We allege that NACOP’s mailings gave the false impression that the charity had a big local presence in each Iowa county, providing vital support to disabled officers who had nowhere else to turn,” Miller said in a written statement. “That makes for an effective fundraising appeal, but wasn’t supported by the facts.”
The Consumer Protection Division of the attorney general’s office began investigating after an Indianola resident sent in a copy of a NACOP solicitation letter. The letter claimed to be part of a “Warren County Annual Fund Drive” that helps paralyzed and disabled police officers.
But according to the attorney general’s office, while NACOP claimed the drive was once a year, the charity sent “a continuous stream of similar solicitations into Iowa.”
Miller said anyone who sent a one-time contribution would get as many as 11 more solicitations. He added that NACOP would rent out donors’ names to other solicitors, which was not mentioned in the mailings.
And while the charity claimed to be supporting local disabled officers, Miller said most counties didn’t receive anything in 2017.
“NACOP’s total Iowa effort that year consisted of sending Christmas cards or Mother’s/Father’s Day cards to the households of 10 disabled Iowa officers, at a total cost of $165,” the attorney general’s office said. “By contrast, NACOP received at least $845 from Iowans in response to just one of its many mailings — more than five times what NACOP spent on Iowa in all of 2017.”
“There are few causes more deserving than helping injured law enforcement personnel in need,” Miller said. “But the fact that the cause is so worthy means that it strikes a chord with generous Iowans, and may be ripe for exploitation. Donors need to make sure their contributions go where they will be sure to make a difference.”
As per the settlement, NACOP must make any refunds to Iowans who request them within the next six months. Those who want a refund should contact the Consumer Protection Division of the attorney general’s office.
NACOP must also pay $5,000 for enforcement of Iowa’s consumer fraud laws, and the agreement also states that NACOP and the Shepherds do not admit any wrongdoing.
The Consumer Protection Division can be reached at (515) 281-5926.