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Veterans’ Charity Sued For Allegedly Misleading Donors

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HOLDEN (CBS) – Attorney General Martha Coakley is suing a veterans’ charity for fraud. She says the fundraisers promised every penny would be given to veterans, but they lied.

The charity, Bay State Vietnam Veterans, was actually keeping 85 cents of every donated dollar and only giving 15 cents to the veterans.

Their luck ran out when they randomly called a man in Holden who also happens to be a veteran himself. Anthony Renzoni is a Holden selectman, a commander of the local American Legion post, and deeply concerned about veterans.

So when he got the random phone call last March, looking for donations to Bay State Vietnam Veterans, one of his questions was how much of each dollar goes to the veterans.

“That’s one of the questions I asked, how much of every dollar donated would get back into the hands of a veteran or go to the charity itself and they didn’t have that answer for me,” he said. “Every one of them was evasive and at that point I contacted the office of the Attorney General.”

Now after numerous complaints, Coakley is taking action, filing suit against Bay State Vietnam Veterans and its telephone fundraiser, Dynamic Marketing Solutions.

Prosecutors say telemarketers told people 100% of donations would go to the veterans when in reality only 15% went to the cause. The rest went to the fundraisers.

“It is illegal for them to misrepresent. If they are asked particular they have to tell those on the other end of the line or in person how much money goes to the solicitors. In this instance, we allege they were actively misrepresenting,” said Attorney General Martha Coakley.

The suit also charges that callers would sometimes pretend to be veterans from Afghanistan and also falsely tell people the donations would benefit local veterans.

Renzoni is angry but pleased with the lawsuit.

“It’s great, it’s one of those feel good things that you went out and stuck your neck out, did the right thing and in the end the good guys win,” said Renzoni.

Believe it or not it is not illegal for the telemarketers to keep 85 cents of every dollar, but the AG’s office says it is illegal for them to not disclose that they’re doing that when the callers ask the question.

There was no official comment from the Bay State Vietnam Veterans fundraiser or Dynamic Marketing Solutions. However, one source within the Vietnam veterans group said that they are not trying to take money from anyone. He said the problem is with the telemarketing group.

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