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Massachusetts Files Suit Against Veterans Charity

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office has sued Rhode Island-based Veterans Community Foundation, Inc. over allegations that the charity used deceptive fundraising tactics to solicit donations.

“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,” Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said in a public statement.

The foundation claimed that a minimum of 80 percent of the money donated goes to veteran program services. However, according to the lawsuit, fund raisers hired by VCF were paid a commission of 30 percent of all the donations they received while soliciting on behalf of the foundation.

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“Most of the fundraising staff that we pay—that work in Rhode Island and Massahusetts have—are veterans,” Kimberly S. Silva, CEO of Veterans Community Foundation told Boston.com. However, under non-profit standards, fundraising is technically not considered a program, she said.

“For the fundraising, unfortunately that particular program is more expensive to run,” she said.

Silva assured that 100 percent of the money donated through their website goes towards the programs that donors choose.

The lawsuit brought against the foundation, Silva, and its two New England branch managers, Matthew J. Desautel and Americo Renzi, also states that VCF solicited donations in storefronts without a valid Certificate of Solicitation from the Attorney General’s Office. According to the lawsuit, the foundation also failed to disclose its annual financial filing to the Attorney General’s Public Charities Division, which is required in order to fundraise in the state.

“The first time I filed, I filed late. When I filed the paperwork in Massachusetts, I filed the wrong form,” said Silva. “We’re a young organization and we’re working hard, we messed up the paper work.”

While the organization was registered in Massachusetts in October 2012, Silva said the foundation started fully operating in November 2013 and has branches in New England and Texas.

The Commonwealth has placed a temporary restraining order on the foundation preventing them from fundraising in the state without filing proper certification.

For now, Silva says she and the foundation’s employees are working to file the necessary paperwork.

“What we’re doing is trying to continue to spend our days as productively as possible, and look at the paperwork and see how best to become a third party procider for mental health services,” said Silva. “I hope we’re going to get through this and explain ourselves and go back to doing what’s critical for veterans.”

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