NY Attorney General Wins Court Order Suspending Fraudulent Charity Call Center
December 13, 2011
By Tracey E. Schelmetic
, TMCnet Contributor
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that he has won a court order that suspends and permanently bans a Connecticut-based call center company and its owner from soliciting charitable donations in New York. The company, which is based in Middlebury, Connecticut, operated a call center in the basement of a house in the Albany, New York area to solicit charitable donations from New York residents that would ostensibly benefit local organizations such as benevolent associations for police and fire departments. In some cases, workers for the company, called Stage Door Productions Inc., posed as firefighters or police officers to solicit fraudulent donations.
Schneiderman has also succeeded in ordering the company, owned by Robert Donato of Middlebury, Connecticut, to pay $1.2 million in fines. Donato has personally been ordered to pay an additional $40,000 penalty.
The Rochester Business Journal is reporting that Schneiderman sued Stage Door last year in New York Supreme Court in Albany, accusing the company and its owner of deceptive practices. The company's call center workers alleged hid their identities – even going so far as to claim to be unpaid volunteers – to fool donors into believing their donations were going directly to charitable organizations.
WNYT in New York has reported that while Stage Door did have a contract to raise funds for the Saratoga County Sheriff's Officers Association and the Columbia County Correction Officer's Union, the contract favored Stage Door significantly.
In Saratoga, Stage Door reportedly collected close to $64,000, but the Police Benevolent Association received only $21,000 of those funds. In Columbia County, the call center raised $29,000, but only $5,100 went to the union.
In announcing the court order, Schneiderman called Stage Door's business practices a “fraudulent scheme [that involved] fundraisers manipulating sympathetic donors in order to raise money, not for the greater good, but instead for their personal financial benefit.”
Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Jennifer Russell