Two veterans charities sued for misleading Washington donors
OLYMPIA, Wash. – The state is suing two charities alleging they scammed donors, who were trying to help veterans, out of as much as $5 million in a two-year span.
Washington state attorney general Bob Ferguson filed lawsuits against Spanaway-based Fallen Hero Bracelets and Florida nonprofit Healing Heroes Network for allegedly violating the Consumer Protection Act and the Charitable Solicitations Act.
“These organizations used the promise of improving veterans’ lives to mislead donors,” Ferguson said. “Their illegal actions are not only disrespectful to donors, but also to the veterans they claim to help.”
Ferguson and Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman joined officials from around the nation to combat veterans’ fundraising fraud, starting with Fallen Hero Bracelets and its director Michael Friedmann.
Fallen Hero allegedly promised to use the money from its website to provide scholarships to children of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, service dogs to veterans suffering from severe PTSD and to help families deal with separation and divorce. The lawsuit claims the charity never delivered on those promises.
The charity listed 40 organizations that it says benefited from the sales, where it was them who benefited, pocketing over $1.2 million sales worldwide.
Fallen Hero Bracelets has also sued customers complaining about slow delivery for thousands of dollars. Now, Ferguson is the one suing, asking the court to have the charity immediately end its deceptive misconduct, provide restitution to affected consumers, impose penalties of up to $2,000 per violation, and pay attorney costs and fees.
The second charity, Healing Heroes Network, also known as the Injured American Veterans Foundation, and its directors Stacey Spiegel and Allan Spiegel, are being sued for allegedly promising to use donations to help veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan receive medical treatments that the Department of Veteran Affairs does not even readily provide.
In the 10 years the organization has operated, it raised around $20 million nationally, with a net profit of about $2.5 million a year in 2016 and 2017. Yet, has it spent less than 1 percent of its revenue on direct services to help wounded veterans in those two years.
The charity dissolved in December 2017 after learning of the state’s investigation. But immediately after, the organization’s director formed a new, similar business under the Hero Giveaways name, who in 2017 made more than $700,000 in retail sales, but donated only $19,409 to veterans.
The filed suit alleges the charity was a for-profit business that gave noting to veterans or any other charity. Ferguson’s lawsuit asks to the court to end its deceptive conduct, provide restitution to consumers affected by the Healing Heroes Network or designate the money for legitimate veterans’ affairs. Plus, pay up to $2,000 per violation and payment of attorney costs and fees.
The lawsuits are a part of Operation Donate with Honor, a nationwide effort against combating veterans’ fundraising fraud, with more than a 100 educational and enforcement policies in effect.