Another deceptive vets charity shut down, Schuette announces

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette last Thursday announced his Charitable Trust Section has reached a settlement with Healing American Heroes, Inc. of Round Rock, Texas and its professional fundraiser Jeremy Squire & Associates for violations of the Charitable Organizations and Solicitations Act. As part of the settlement Helping American Heroes will be dissolved and both the charity and professional fundraiser will pay restitution.

"Today's settlement ends another scam that exploited donor sympathy for veterans," said Schuette. "Deceptive veterans charities continue to be a problem-but it's a problem our office is addressing. In the last year, we've shut down two deceptive national veterans charities and investigated or alleged violations against others. I want to thank my Charitable Trust team for their diligence in protecting Michigan residents from charity scams and I encourage residents to remain vigilant when making charitable donations."

In July 2017, Schuette alleged over a million violations of the Charitable Organizations and Solicitations Act against Healing American Heroes, which also uses the name Help our Wounded, and its fundraiser Jeremy Squire & Associates. Violations included deceptive solicitations and diversion of funds raised to other purposes. Over 10,000 donations totaling more than $200,000 were received from Michigan donors.

Under the settlement, Healing American Heroes will dissolve and will pay any remaining funds paid to Fisher House Foundation, a national veterans charity. Additionally, Healing American Heroes will pay $50,000, to be split between Fisher House Foundation and Saratoga Warhorse Foundation, a national charity that helps veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Healing American Heroes' founder Rosalinda Babin will pay $20,000 and agree never to serve as a charitable fiduciary again. Fundraiser Jeremy Squire & Associates will cancel over $100,000 of fees owed, will cease fundraising in Michigan for ten years, and will pay $30,000.

Healing American Heroes came to the attention of the Attorney General's Charitable Trust Section through an audit of its charitable solicitation registration and IRS Form 990. The Charitable Trust Section questioned certain statements on the IRS Form 990, requesting Healing American Heroes' solicitation materials for review, and requested information regarding its supposed charitable activities. The charity's responses revealed numerous violations.

In 2015, Healing American Heroes, fundraising under the name Help Our Wounded, raised $2.6 million by sending nearly five million deceptive mailings nationwide. The mailings included between one and three phone cards and made statements such as the following:

- Stated the "urgent" need for phone cards for wounded service members deployed in the Middle East.

- Claimed that "Every one of the 50,000 soldiers still stationed in Afghanistan and the Middle East wants [a phone card] and I believe they deserve them."

- Told individuals that Healing American Heroes' network of military individuals would distribute the cards.

- Asked donors to "sponsor one, two, or even three Emergency Phone Cards for as little as $10 . . ."

- Asked donors to return the mailed phone cards with their contribution to "sponsor" the cards.

The Notice of Intended Action alleges 1,127,590 violations against Healing American Heroes and 1,116,538 violations against professional fundraiser Jeremy Squire & Associates. It also orders the charity and the fundraiser to cease and desist these violations, giving them 21 days to resolve the matter or face a civil action in court. Concurrent with the Notice of Intended Action, the Attorney General is also issuing a Notice of Intent to Deny Healing American Heroes' fundraising registration.

Over the last year, Schuette's Charitable Trust Section has ramped up its enforcement of Michigan's law prohibiting deceptive charitable solicitations.

Complaints regarding charitable solicitations may be filed through the Attorney General's online complaint form, or by mailing the Charitable Trust Section at P.O. Box 30214, Lansing, MI 48909-7714, or by emailing the Charitable Trust Section.

To assist individuals in making wise decisions regarding which charitable donations to support, Schuette established an online searchable database for charities. Schuette also publishes an annual professional fundraising charitable solicitation report, available on the Attorney General website. The Attorney General's Charitable Trust Section is also available at 517-373-1152 to answer inquiries about a charity.

Published: Mon, Nov 20, 2017