AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Attorney General Janet Mills has joined law enforcement officials from across the country to sue four phony cancer charities that allegedly scammed consumers out of more than $187 million.
Mills, along with officials in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Federal Trade Commission, jointly filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Arizona against Cancer Fund of America, Inc., Children’s Cancer Fund of America, Inc., Cancer Support Services, Inc., The Breast Cancer Society, Inc., and their operators, according to a news release from her office.
The joint complaint alleges that most consumers’ donations between 2008 and 2012 benefited only the operators of the nonprofit corporations, along with their families, friends, and professional fundraisers who often received at least 85 percent of each contribution. The charities posed as legitimate organizations with nationwide programs supporting cancer patients, according to the release.
Mills and the other plaintiffs claim the organizations misrepresented that contributions would be used for charity, specific program benefits, revenue and expenses related to international gifts-in-kind, and that the primary goal of their reported programs was to directly assist individuals in the U.S., the release states.
Five defendants — Children’s Cancer Fund, The Breast Cancer Society, Rose Perkins, James Reynolds II and Kyle Effler — reached settlements that require the charities to dissolve and prohibit the individuals from fundraising or running any other charities.
“Through settlement with Children’s Cancer Fund and The Breast Cancer Society, we have permanently stopped solicitations that were based on deceptive claims to consumers that their donations would assist children with cancer and breast cancer patients,” Mills said in the release.
Mills said the plaintiffs were “committed to fight Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services, and James Reynolds Sr.” in court.
The four charities are registered with Maine’s charitable solicitations program, which is designed to provide general information for public review and way for people to ask questions, express concerns or file complaints, according to Doug Dunbar, a spokesman for the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation.
The program has no record of any consumer complaints against the organizations, he said. Program staff will review the settlement announced Tuesday and “take appropriate action regarding the registration of the entities named,” he wrote in an email. The registrations of the other organizations not named in the settlement will be flagged and staff will monitor the pending court case, Dunbar said.
“People are urged to obtain details from more than one source before contributing to a charity, particularly one that is not well-known to the donor,” he wrote.
To research a charity, call the Maine Office of Professional and Occupational Registration at 624-8603 or visit www.pfr.maine.gov/almsonline/almsquery/SearchCompany.aspx. Members of the public are encouraged to contact the Charitable Solicitations Program to express concerns or file a complaint regarding any organization’s solicitations.