Lehigh telemarketer to pay $75K for illegal charitable solicitations
HARRISBURG - Attorney General Linda Kelly on Wednesday announced that an agreement has been reached with a Lehigh County telemarketer to resolve claims that the company illegally solicited charitable contributions and portrayed themselves as members of fraternal organizations, including firefighters and constables.
Kelly identified the company as Atlantic Productions, 1633 W. Allen St., Allentown. Atlantic Productions operates as a telemarketing fundraising firm on behalf of a variety of nonprofit organizations.
According to the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance (AVC), Atlantic Productions called consumers to solicit charitable contributions while not properly registered with the Pennsylvania Department of State and misled donors into thinking that they were speaking with firefighters, constables or other public safety officials instead of paid professional solicitors.
Kelly said that Atlantic Productions hired some callers who had prior criminal records that included theft or dishonesty.
Additionally, donors were led to believe that their donations would benefit their local municipalities when in reality the money would only go to membership or fraternal groups.
Atlantic Productions also sent donation confirmations entitled "official receipt" along with stickers and decals displaying an "official" constable sticker, which is illegal under the Solicitations of Funds for Charitable Purposes Act.
Kelly noted that warning letters were sent to Atlantic Productions' clients for failure to properly oversee their telemarketers' fundraising activities.
In addition to the Pennsylvania State Constables Association, Atlantic Productions also raised funds for the Reading Police Beneficial Association, International Association of Firefighters Local 302 Allentown, Fraternal Order of Police Queen City Lodge #10 Allentown, and the Rajah Shiners A.A.O.N.M.S. of Reading.
Under the terms of the agreement Atlantic Productions agrees to:
• Pay $75,000 in restitution, fines, and penalties;
• Record all solicitation calls, which will be searchable by date, time and phone number;
• Operate in compliance with the Charities Act and Consumer Protection Law;
• Cease making solicitations for charitable purposes on behalf of unregistered charitable organizations;
• Adequately train all telemarketers; and
• Clearly disclose their name and status as a paid professional solicitor.
Kelly advised Pennsylvania donors to:
• Ask for details about any organization before making a donation;
• Request information about how funds will be spent. (If asked, callers must disclose what percentage of the contribution will go toward community service, operating expenses or fundraising);
• Ask whether you are being contacted directly by the organization or a paid fundraiser;
• Make contributions directly to the organization; and
• Obtain a receipt or written confirmation for all donations.
The case was handled by Senior Deputy Attorney General Michael T. Foerster of the Attorney General's Charitable Trusts and Organizations Section.