TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Attorney General Pam Bondi today filed a complaint seeking to shut down a Florida charity falsely claiming to use charitable donations to provide financial support to families of firefighters lost in the line of duty. Community Charity Advancement, Inc. also allegedly falsely claims to use donations to provide assistance to breast cancer research organizations and breast cancer patients, but in some instances uses donations for different purposes. According to the complaint, CCAI’s deceptive acts and practices mislead generous donors into contributing to CCAI instead of the many legitimate charitable organizations operating bona fide programs that support breast cancer research, breast cancer and fire victims, as well as firefighters.
“It is absolutely abhorrent to exploit families of fallen firefighters and breast cancer patients to steal from generous Floridians. Charity scams prey on people’s goodwill and discourage people from giving. Furthermore, every dollar given to a deceptive charity is a dollar that does not go to those in need. This is an outrageous ploy and those responsible will be held accountable,” said Attorney General Bondi.
The complaint also alleges that CCAI falsely represents having a partnership with bona fide cancer research and support organizations to deceptively lend legitimacy to the company’s activities. Some of these organizations who are not in partnership with CCAI, despite the company’s claims, include the University of Florida, Johns Hopkins and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
During the past four years, CCAI reported raising more than $40 million in donations through the fundraising efforts of various fictitious names. In 2014, CCAI reported raising more than $10 million in donations, which CCAI provided just $49,000, or half of one penny, in cash contributions to breast cancer research organizations. In that same year, CCAI diverted half a million dollars in donations meant to support breast cancer research or assist patients to pay fundraisers and other vendors for services connected to its firefighter-related activities. Despite CCAI’s representations, CCAI made no financial donations during the past three years to support families of firefighters who passed away in the line of duty.
The complaint alleges violations of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
The following individuals and entities are named as defendants in the lawsuit: Community Charity Advancement, Inc., doing business as Breast Cancer Research and Support Fund, U.S. Volunteer Firefighters Association, United States Firefighter Association, United States Firefighters Association and US Volunteer Firefighters Association; Francis Ferrer; Lindsey Novinich; Carole Reich; Bruce Rinney; Kerry Sharon and John Thomas.
Consumers who donated to CCAI can file a complaint with Attorney General Bondi’s Office by clicking here.
To view the complaint, click here.
The Circuit Court of the17th Judicial Circuit in Broward County will hear this case.