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Texas Highway Patrol Association

AG shuts down bogus charity museum

It’s an extremely rare privilege to point out something of actual positive value done by our Attorney General.

The doors will finally close on the Texas Highway Patrol Museum in San Antonio, a charity that raised millions of dollars under the guise that the money would benefit state troopers and their families, yet spent less than a penny of every fundraising dollar on that effort.

After receiving dozens of complaints about the charity, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott sued the museum in December, accusing the charity’s leaders of squandering donations. He sought to permanently shut it down.

On Tuesday, a settlement filed in a Travis County courtroom ended the lawsuit – and the museum.

See here and here for some background. This “charity” was not connected to the Department of Public Safety, and did not pay out the $10,000 death benefit promised by them to the widows of numerous slain state troopers. They will finally receive that money as part of this settlement. Good on everyone involved for getting this done, though as Grits notes, there are still more scams like this out there.

More on those police “charities”

Nice story in the Statesman about those law enforcement charities that call you for donations.

The first time he got the call last year, Rodney Shaheen thought one of his children had been in a bad car crash.

The name on his phone said “TX State Troop,” and the caller claimed he was a state trooper, Shaheen later told the state in a written complaint.

But the call wasn’t from any official police department, and it wasn’t about an accident. It was a request for money — a chance to help troopers and the loved ones of fallen officers, Shaheen recalled.

“The caller … (said) that 100 percent of what I donated would go to the families of officers killed in the line of duty,” he wrote.

Soon after, he heard a public service radio announcement from the Texas Department of Public Safety warning against giving to organizations over the phone “so I knew it was a scam,” Shaheen wrote in the complaint — one of many like it in recent years. The attorney general in December sued the Texas Highway Patrol Association, the group that called Shaheen, contending that it defrauded donors and that officials used contributions for personal reasons — an allegation they deny.

Driven almost entirely by telephone solicitations generally outsourced to professional fundraising companies, charitable giving to organizations representing or claiming to represent law enforcement officers is a multimillion dollar operation in Texas. In 2009 alone — the most recent year with complete data — three of the largest among more than 20 law enforcement organizations using telephone solicitations in the state reported annual proceeds of nearly $7 million total, much of it from phone donations.

The industry often plays on the public’s sympathy for the work of officers in maintaining law and order, sometimes using names that sound like official law enforcement agencies to raise money for emotional causes such as the families of fallen officers. Yet in many cases, the nonprofits using phone solicitors to raise money for police causes are actually professional law enforcement associations or labor unions, and the vast majority of donations can go to pay the private telemarketing companies.

Supporters say there are many legitimate organizations that raise money for worthy law enforcement causes and that do not pay large amounts to professional fundraisers. But critics point out that even those organizations that use telemarketers to raise money for direct donations to officers may be asking the public to support a cause that is already well-funded by taxpayers.

See here and here for more. Reading this story reminds me of a time about 20 years ago when I got on the call list for one or more of these groups. I made a donation the first time, and it seemed like I got called every couple of months after that for years asking for more. Which I didn’t give, because I was fresh out of grad school and still not exactly living large, not to mention the fact that it became obnoxious real fast. Anyway, it’s a good read, so check it out. Via Grits

AG sues sham police charity

Good.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has sued officials with the nonprofit Texas Highway Patrol Association and officials with a museum the association operates in San Antonio, claiming they have defrauded consumers by soliciting donations to help families of fallen troopers but often using the contributions as a personal bank account.

A 37-page lawsuit filed in Travis County late last week said the officials have used donations — the group receives up to $10,000 a day — to buy tickets to amusement parks and movie theaters and to pay for airfare across the United States.

The officials also have used association money for meals, dental bills, fitness centers and pet care, investigators said. The suit names as defendants the association, the San Antonio museum and 10 senior officials who help run the organization, including several board members.

Calls to a toll-free number for the Texas Highway Patrol Association were not returned Monday.

The lawsuit accuses defendants of falsely claiming that the association, which was formed in the 1990s, is a tax-exempt, charitable organization registered with the Internal Revenue Service. It is instead a nonprofit business league — not a charity.

The defendants also face civil penalties for falsely claiming that the entities are linked to the Texas Department of Public Safety and its highway patrol division, officials said. The organization is not affiliated with DPS.

Mighty sleazy way to make a buck. I hope they get what they deserve for this. See Grits for more.

Beware the Texas Highway Patrol Association

A public service announcement from Grits for Breakfast:

This morning Grits received a solicitation phone call from a telemarketer who said he was from the “Texas Highway Patrol,” calling because “we’ve lost two troopers recently” and they wanted to “raise money for their families.”

“So you’re from the Department of Public Safety?,” I asked. He evaded, repeating that he was calling from the highway patrol. “So you’re calling from the Department of Public Safety,” I repeated, “because the highway patrol is part of DPS?” At first he said “yes,” he was from DPS, then backtracked and equivocated. I pressed and he told me he was paid by a museum in San Antonio. “So you told me you’re from the highway patrol raising money for families of dead troopers but really you’re from a museum in San Antonio?” He said “No, that’s why I said at the beginning I’m calling from the Texas Highway Patrol Association.” He had in fact never said the word “association” before that moment. At that point I told him I wouldn’t be giving him any money and he should tell his supervisor to expect a complaint to the Attorney General. I’m certainly not giving a dime to somebody on the phone who I’ve caught in a bold-faced lie.

Click over and read the rest. The Attorney General is already well aware of this group, which spends about 90% of the funds it raises on fundraising. It’s a scam, so if they call you don’t give them anything.