Florida charity scammed donations meant for wounded veterans, state AGs say

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A Florida-based veterans charity is no longer in business after a multi-state investigation proved it misused donations and resolves allegations of deceptive sweepstakes mailers and telephone solicitations to help wounded veterans,

Under the terms of the settlement announced earlier this week, Healing Heroes Network, Inc. and the related organization Hero Giveaways, LLC will permanently cease all charitable solicitations Its former directors -- Stacey, Allan and Neal Spiegel -- have agreed to pay $95,000 to be provided to a veterans’ charity whose mission matches the representations made by the charity.

“Organizations and individuals who deceive kind-hearted Virginians who only want to help veterans and service members are despicable and must be held accountable,” said Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring in a release announcing the settlement.

The Spiegels are also banned for five years from overseeing, managing or soliciting charitable contributions for any nonprofit organization.

An investigation found donors contributed millions of dollars due to deceptive sweepstakes mailers and telephone solicitations. The organization promised to use donations to help veterans wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan receive medical treatments that the Department of Veterans Affairs did not readily provide.

“The charity also falsely claimed on social media in 2016 and 2017 to dedicate 100% of proceeds to wounded veterans,” the release states.

The investigation also revealed that very little of the contributions received by the Healing Heroes Network were used to further its charitable mission. Donations instead went to pay professional fundraisers, online advertising fees, the salaries of Stacey Spiegel and her son, Neal, and to purchase T-shirts from another family member’s T-shirt business.

Also part of the settlement is Hero Giveaways, LLC, a business formed by Stacey Spiegel and Neal Spiegel after Healing Heroes Network, Inc. became the subject of a multistate investigation, and which continued the organization’s deceptive practices, the release stated.

Joining Virginia in the settlement agreement are the states of Washington, Florida, Ohio, Oregon, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico and California. This action is part of Operation Donate With Honor, a nationwide consumer protection law enforcement sweep to combat veterans’ fundraising fraud through education and enforcement.

Herring encouraged those who plan on donating to charities to do their research and “make sure you are donating to legitimate, trustworthy organizations.”

Reach Julia LeDoux at Julia@connectingvets.com

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