State lawsuit goes after non-profit founder using names of well known charities
The State Attorney General is suing to shut down six local non-profits. They have names that virtually everyone recognizes and that's the concern. To quote state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, the non-profits are "fake."
They likely stayed under the radar because they sound almost exactly like the American Red Cross, the American Cancer Society, and United Way of King County.
According to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in King County Superior Court, Ian Richard Hosang of New York created six non-profits using the names American Cancer Society of Seattle, American Cancer Society of Washington, American Red Cross of Seattle, American Red Cross of Washington , United Way of Seattle and United Way of Washington.
The state says none of the six non-profits is related to the established legitimate charitable organizations with the same or similar names.
"Well it's concerning!" said King County United Way spokeswoman Sabrina Register. "We're United Way of King County. This person allegedly created a non-profit using United Way of Seattle. United Way of Washington. So I can see the confusion there."
According to Sr. Assistant Attorney General Shannon Smith, the same name game was uncovered in multiple other states.
"He registered non-profit organizations in Michigan, California, Wisconsin, Ohio, Georgia, New York, Florida and Maryland," said Smith.
The state's lawsuit shows Hosang used the names of the American Cancer Society, American Red Cross and United Way in each case.
In a news release announcing the lawsuit, the AG's office says the six non-profits, "did not perform any activities listed in their mission statements or provide any money or assistance to the beneficiaries they claimed to help."
An even bigger red flag: the state's news release says the man behind the name game, has a criminal record, spent 12 years in federal prison, and has ties to the infamous Gambino crime family in New York.
"This individual has ties to organized crime. He pled guilty to conspiracy and money laundering," Smith said.
The state is concerned about the potential for the non-profits to be used to cover potential illegal activity.
United Way says it's concerned about protecting the integrity of legitimate non-profits that work hard to serve our community.
KOMO News reached Hosang by phone in New York. He said he could not comment on the lawsuit because he hasn't seen it. Hosang stressed that he never solicited any money from anyone and insisted the six non-profits in question will be dissolved.
"This is really astonishing," said Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman.
Wyman's office is responsible for registering non-profits, charities and corporations.
"We'll be working with our legal team to just make sure there's nothing we can shore up in law, that can help prevent this kind of activity," she said.
Wyman says the AG's investigation and lawsuit highlights the need for everyone to scrutinize non-profit organizations before giving them your donation or business. Even when they sound like an organization you know.
And because sound-alike organizations pop up all the time, it's always good to check out non-profit organizations with the Secretary of State's Charity Division to make sure you know who you're dealing with.