Thursday, November 9, 2017

Pro-Police Organization Isn't a Legit Charity, BBB Warns

Posted By on Thu, Nov 9, 2017 at 6:39 AM

click to enlarge COURTESY OF FLICKR/USAG LIVORNO PAO
The Better Business Bureau is warning about an organization that calls itself the National Police Support Fund — which, despite soliciting contributions from St. Louis-area donors, isn't actually a charity.

The BBB notes that the organization attested on its website and in mailers that it's a nonprofit based in Alexandria, Virginia. But its investigators found that IRS filings actually place the organization at a "virtual office" in Wisconsin.

And when the BBB contacted the organization, the man who responded acknowledged that it was "a political action committee and not a charity," the BBB says — lacking the 501(c)3 designation given to non-profits that accept tax-deductible donations from the public. He wouldn't release further information about its president or board members.

The plot then thickened: Further investigation revealed that two officers listed in its IRS paperwork, Greg Hertling and Lee Ostrowsky, are former employees of Civic Development Group, the BBB reports, "which was shut down in 2010 after a Federal Trade Commission investigation into the firm’s charity solicitation practices."

The BBB's St. Louis office became aware of the organization after hearing from an Affton woman, the wife of a retired police officer. Solicited by phone, she pledged $15 — but later learned that she was supposed to send it to a post office box. She also learned her donation wouldn't be tax-deductible, as is true for actual non-profits.

Michelle Corey, the BBB's president and CEO, said in a statement that non-profits “should earn people’s trust, and one way to do so is by being transparent.”

“A nonprofit’s mission may seem laudable, but unless it makes itself accountable to its donors, it rarely will be successful," she said.

When the BBB questioned various partners listed on the agency's website, the New York City Police Department disavowed any relationship. The New Jersey State Police logo was also soon removed from the website, the BBB said.

Another giveaway that the organization isn't fully legit? Its web listing of states where it has "active chapters" includes "Missoura."

Editor's note: A previous version of this story referred imprecisely to the National Police Support Fund's tax status. They are a 501(c)4 non-profit under the IRS code, but not a 501(c)3 charity.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at sarah.fenske@riverfronttimes.com


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