They passed themselves off as legitimate fundraisers for charity, phoning and asking people throughout Eastern Massachusetts to donate as much as $100 to police and veteran's organizations. But authorities say the five men used donations to make car and house payments or for jewelry, restaurant tabs and other personal expenses.
Today, a Middlesex Grand Jury indicted the five on several charges, after a two-year investigation by the state Attorney Generals office. Charged with larceny, attempted larceny, gross fraud, conspiracy to commit larceny, and deceptive professional solicitation practices were Ronald Seeley, 38, his son Brandon, 20, both of Medford, George Borden, 53, of Quincy, William Lewis, 57, of Brookline, N.H., and Frank Cariello, 70, of Boynton Beach, Fl.
"The law allows solicitation for funds but the solicitors must be honest and frank about what they were using the money for," Attorney General Martha Coakley said during a press conference today.
On several occasions, the men told their victims they were volunteers, but Coakley said they were "paid well.'' The suspects also said the funds would be used for veterans, in the cities or towns where they were solicited and the money would go towards scholarships. "Not true,'' said Coakley. The solicitors also told potential donors that they were affiliated with a regional paralyzed veterans group, which they were not, authorities said.
Instead, the Seeleys, working out of a local office, made false statements to potential donors on behalf of their company, CMR Marketing. The men instructed the donors to write checks, put them in an envelope, and tape the envelope to their front door for CMR to pick up. The checks would be deposited into the bank account of the Veteran's Charitable Foundation or VCF, a Florida-based organization led by Cariello. VCF would then wire the money it received from CMR back into the CMR bank account.
Coakley estimated the men defrauded more than 1,000 donors and misappropriated at least $100,000 in donations, while only about $25,000 went to charity. The investigation was launched after several donors became suspicious, noticing that their checks were being cashed by CMR rather than the intended charities. The donors called the Attorney Generals Office.
Authorities hope to recoup some of the money.
Coakley urged people to "do a little homework'' before giving money to charity. It's always risky to agree to give money on the phone and leave it in a manner in which it would be difficult to track,'' she said.