LANSING – Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced that a West Bloomfield man who established fake charities and impersonated legitimate veterans groups for his own gain will spend at least the next year and a half in prison and pay $74,400 in restitution.
On November 7, 2012, Neil Thrasher, 37, of West Bloomfield was sentenced to 17 months to ten years in prison, and ordered to pay restitution of $29,257 to Paralyzed Veterans of America and $45,143 to Disabled American Veterans.
Thrasher had pleaded no contest to creating two fake charities: The Paralyzed American Veterans and Disabled Veterans of America. The names used where strikingly similar to two longstanding national organizations that have assisted veterans for years: Paralyzed Veterans of America and Disabled American Veterans.
“Creating phony charities to line your pockets violates state law and abuses the public trust,” said Schuette. “Michigan citizens deserve to know that money they give to veterans organizations actually goes to help veterans.”
“Paralyzed Veterans of America is proud of our service to veterans and their families for more than six decades. We have, and will continue to, enforce our legal rights to protect our reputation and maintain public confidence in our services and our mission,” said Len Selfon, Acting General Counsel for Paralyzed Veterans of America. “We urge donors to be vigilant and to report suspicious charities to the proper authorities.”
On October 3, 2012 Thrasher pleaded no contest before Judge James M. Alexander in Oakland County’s 6th Circuit Court to the following three felonies:
· Two counts of Embezzlement from a Charitable Organization, and
· One count of Violation of the Charitable Solicitation Act.
From January 2009 through April 2012 Mr. Thrasher collected more than $180,000 through telemarketing from unsuspecting donors and later used a substantial portion of the money as if it were his personal funds. Although Mr. Thrasher claimed to be helping disabled veterans, he used the money to make purchases at athletic clubs, liquor stores, and restaurants. The vast majority of money collected was allegedly never used to help veterans or given to veterans organizations.
To assist individuals in making wise decisions regarding which charitable organizations to support, Schuette established an online searchable database for charities, accessible at www.michigan.gov/agcharitysearch. Through this database, users now can see how much of a charity’s money is actually used for charitable purposes.
Michigan citizens are encouraged to report any future solicitations by the Paralyzed American Veterans, Disabled Veterans of America, or the Veterans of America Foundation in violation of state law to the Attorney General’s Charitable Trust Section by calling (517) 373-1152 or emailing complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org. Complaints may also be mailed to: Charitable Trust Section, P.O. Box 30214, Lansing, MI 48909.
Donors can also help Attorney General Schuette to combat this type of fraud by reporting any concerns about charities and professional fundraisers to the Charitable Trust Section.