Mass. AG suing Lincoln veterans charity

BOSTON (AP) — A Rhode Island-based charity to benefit military veterans uses deceptive fundraising tactics and illegally solicits donations in Massachusetts, the Massachusetts attorney general alleged in a lawsuit.

“We allege that these defendants violated the public’s trust by knowingly misleading potential donors while soliciting money for veterans,” Attorney General Martha Coakley said in a statement Friday. “There are many worthy veterans’ charities that deserve support and generous donors should not have to worry about being misled as to where their money is going.”

The lawsuit filed this week in Suffolk Superior Court named Veterans Community Foundation Inc., its chief executive, and two branch managers as defendants.

The charity says on its website that it raises money to help veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan with behavioral counseling, job placement, education and life skills.

The suit alleged that the Lincoln, R.I.-based charity violated Massachusetts state charitable solicitation laws by asking for donations outside stores without proper certification from the attorney general’s office.

The suit also alleged the charity overstates how much money it collects goes to help veterans.

Kimberly Silva, the chief executive of Veterans Community Foundation, denied wrongdoing.

“I need to be humble and respect the laws of Massachusetts, and we’re looking forward to showing we are moving toward laying a foundation to help veterans,” she said.

She acknowledged filing the wrong paperwork with the attorney general’s charitable arm for the proper certification to raise funds in Massachusetts, but said she is working to correct that mistake.

The complaint also alleged that the charity told potential donors that a minimum of 80 percent of all donated money goes directly to services for veterans, at the same time the charity paid its fundraisers 30 percent of all that is raised.

Silva said that 100 percent of donations collected online go to veterans programs and at least 80 percent of all money raised supports the charity’s programs.

A judge has granted a temporary restraining order preventing the charity from any fundraising activities in Massachusetts until it has satisfied the required filing requirements.

A hearing is scheduled for April 30.

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