Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) announced Tuesday that his office reached a settlement with a company that had solicited
funds for what he contends was a phony veterans charity.
Michigan-based Associated Community Services, which raised money through telemarketing calls for the now-defunct United States Navy Veterans Association, will have to pay more than $65,000 to refund contributions and pay civil penalties, attorneys’ fees and expenses, Cuccinelli’s office said.
ACS admitted no wrongdoing as part of the settlement, which took the form of a consent decree submitted to Richmond Circuit Court for approval. ACS maintained throughout the investigation that it had been unaware of any fraud at USNVA.
The case drew attention in Virginia political circles nearly two years ago, when it was revealed that Bobby Thompson, the man who ran the charity, had donated heavily to state politicians, including more than $55,000 to Cuccinelli. After first resisting, Cuccinelli agreed to donate Thompson’s contributions to a legitimate charity.
“The attorney general did not play a role in the civil case against ACS, but instead assigned his chief deputy attorney general, Charles ‘Chuck’ James, to oversee it,” a statement from Cuccinelli’s office noted. “The case was handled by Senior Assistant Attorney General Richard Schweiker and Senior Assistant Attorney General/ Antitrust and Consumer Litigation Section Chief David Irvin.”
As part of the settlement, ACS will return $16,780 to 812 Virginians who donated to the “defunct and fraudulent” charity, Cuccinelli’s office said. ACS previously returned $32,500 to about 1,500 Virginians who’d made donations to USNVA.
Last February, the General Assembly repealed a law, which USNVA had successfully pushed for a year earlier, that exempted veterans charities from having to register annually with the state.
Several states began investigating USNVA in 2010 after the St. Petersburg Times published a lengthy investigation that found the group’s officers appeared to be fake and that the charity appeared to be spending very little of the millions it took on veterans. Thompson disappeared around that time and remains at large.
“This office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners at the state, local, and federal levels to find 'Bobby Thompson' and any other cohorts, to ensure that those responsible are held accountable for what they have done,” Cuccinelli said.