LANSING – Attorney General Bill Schuette and Jason Allen, Senior Deputy Director for the Department of Military and Veteran’s Affairs today announced that the Attorney General’s Criminal Division has charged a West Bloomfield man with establishing fake charities with impressive sounding names for his own personal gain. The names were allegedly used to scam patriotic citizens into donating money since they are very similar to the names of longtime, legitimate veterans charities.
“Creating phony charities for personal gain violates state law and abuses the public trust,” said Schuette. “Pocketing funds that were generously donated to aid disabled veterans who have sacrificed so much for our country is especially reprehensible.”
“Veterans and current service members are appreciative of donations given to support them. However, it is important for individuals to do the research to ensure their contributions are going to good, legitimate causes,” said Allen.
It is alleged that Neil Thrasher, 37, of West Bloomfield created two fake charities: The Paralyzed American Veterans and Disabled Veterans of America. The names used are strikingly similar to two longstanding national organizations that have assisted veterans for years: Paralyzed Veterans of America and Disabled American Veterans.
The charges state that from January 2009 through April 2012 Mr. Thrasher collected over $100,000 through telemarketing from unsuspecting donors and used the money as if it were his personal funds. Although Mr. Thrasher claimed to be helping disabled veterans, it is alleged he used the money to make purchases at athletic clubs, liquor stores, and restaurants. The vast majority of money collected was allegedly never being used to help veterans or given to veterans organizations.
Since the allegedly fake charities were created in different jurisdictions, Mr. Thrasher will face charges in both Farmington Hills and Southfield.
Mr. Thrasher has been charged with the following crimes in Michigan’s 47th District Court in Farmington Hills related to the Paralyzed American Veterans charity.
- One count of Embezzlement from a Charitable Organization, a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and/or a $15,000 fine; and
- One count of Violation of the Charitable Solicitation Act, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine.
Mr. Thrasher has been charged in Michigan’s 46th District Court in Southfield related to the Disabled Veterans of America charity with:
- One count of Embezzlement from a Charitable Organization, a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and/or a $15,000 fine.
Mr. Thrasher has surrendered to authorities and was arraigned this morning in Farmington Hills and released on a personal bond. Thrasher is scheduled to be arraigned at 1:30pm in Southfield.
In May 2012, Schuette halted operations of another bogus charity started by Thrasher, the “Veterans of America (VOA) Foundation” also known as the “Michigan Veterans of America VOA Foundation.” To date, no criminal charges have been filed against Thrasher in relation to that organization.
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/
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 email@example.com. Complaints may also be mailed to: Charitable Trust Section, P.O. Box 30214, Lansing, MI 48909.
Donors can also help Attorney General Schuette combat this type of fraud by reporting any concerns about charities and professional fundraisers to the Charitable Trust Section.