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What’s in Your Mailbox?

Beware the Schemes of Scallywags


SCALLYWAG SCHEMES: A Santa Barbaran I know regularly finds his mailbox stuffed with heartrending appeals from charities. I’ve checked and found that too many of them are just shameful shams, little more than moneymaking rackets.

The operators make annual salaries of up to $300,000 or more while spending perhaps 2 percent of the donations on the causes they hustle.

Barney Brantingham

While charitable giving is a long, honorable tradition in America, sham “charities” aim for your heart, but their real target is your wallet. Only occasionally are they shut down by the feds.

But last week the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cracked down on four bogus cancer charities, charging them with bilking over $187 million from generous but tricked Americans.

They claimed that donations would help pay for pain medication, hospice care, and other services for children, women suffering from breast cancer, and others, but instead the defendants blew the money on such things as travel, cars, luxury cruises, ski outings, and dating-site memberships, according to the FTC.

A family was running these scams, operating as “personal fiefdoms,” the feds said. Law enforcement in all 50 states joined in the FTC action. I wish I could report that criminal action was taken against the fraudsters, but it wasn’t.

As in many of these cases, the millions are gone. Little is left. For instance, a judgment of $30 million was imposed on Rose Perkins, based on the amount donated to her bogus Children’s Cancer Fund of America. But the judgment was suspended “based upon her inability to pay.”

James Reynolds II, who ran Breast Cancer Society, was ordered to pay a $65 million judgment, but he spun off a warehouse in part payment and only has to come up with $75,000. Kyle Effler of Cancer Support Services, facing a $141 million judgment, need only pay $60,000.

Under the settlement, they’re all banned from further action in the sham charities racket. But litigation continues against James Reynolds Sr., president of Cancer Fund of America and Cancer Support Services.

Other bogus charities prey on the public’s desire to support military veterans and law enforcement. A few years ago, the FTC took action against 32 such fundraising outfits.

Three sham nonprofits ​— ​American Veterans Relief Foundation (AVRF), the Coalition of Police and Sheriffs, and Disabled Firefighters Fund ​— ​were all based in Santa Ana “and created almost entirely to provide profits” for the operators, the FTC said. Despite promises that donations were going to assist military families, “virtually no money” went to them, according to the FTC.

Hit with judgments of $19 million, those running the scams evaded payment by claiming inability to pay. The money was gone.

David Scott Marleau ran a handful of sham charities claiming to benefit police, fire, and veterans groups, the FTC said. It charged that the supposed charities also targeted seniors, sometimes debiting their bank accounts without permission.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the $1.7 million judgment against Marleau’s fake charities was suspended due to his supposed lack of ability to pay.

Although these are just a sampling of many crooked “charities” that lie and cheat in pursuit of your dollars, it shouldn’t stop you from supporting worthy organizations. Just select charities you know are on the up-and-up before you write a check. (Never send cash, of course.)

Remember, a lion’s share of donations usually goes to telemarketers who do the dirty work. Before writing that check, think of a local organization that could use your help closer to home.

I hope my friend looks closely at what’s stuffing his mailbox and thinks twice about where his money is going.

FIDDLER AT THE GRANADA: The superstar rolled into the post-concert reception and was immediately surrounded by groupies. I’m talking about world-famous violinist Itzhak Perlman, 70 years young, seated on a motorized cart, being fawned over by the women of Santa Barbara.

Perlman traded jokes with his pianist sidekick, Emanuel Ax, himself a global star. Reminded by Ax of being flown in to a long-ago concert at remote Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Perlman cracked, “I remember it not so well.”

Offered a drink, the violinist jokingly declined. “I have to drive.” (Highly unlikely.) Born in Israel, he contracted polio at age 4. He learned to walk with crutches and now also uses an electric Amigo scooter.

Earlier, the duo delighted a full house with a concert of pieces by Mozart, Fauré, and Richard Strauss.



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