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February 28, 2011

LITTLE ROCK - Attorney General Dustin McDaniel filed a consumer protection lawsuit today against a Florida-based company, claiming the company used deceptive and misleading tactics to solicit charitable contributions in the state.

The suit against Children and Family Services Inc. and its owner, Gary Ray Tomey II, claims Tomey gave the company the name "Arkansas Children and Family Services" for the sole purpose of soliciting donations in Arkansas. In Internet and telephone solicitations to state residents, ACFS claimed that donations would be used to grant the wishes of terminally-ill children, to sponsor Olympic-style events for disabled children, or to aid women's shelters in Arkansas. In fact, almost all the money was used to compensate Tomey and finance his telemarketing operation.

The company donated only $325 of the more than $50,000 it raised in the state to some well-known charities. Aside from that, ACFS provides no assistance to children or families in the state.

"Everything in this company's fundraising program was designed to deceive and mislead Arkansans into believing they were helping disadvantaged children and adults," McDaniel said. "This defendant used the plight of our state's most vulnerable citizens as a ploy to line his own pockets. These kinds of actions are unacceptable."

Despite its name, the defendant is not associated with the Arkansas Department of Human Services or its Children and Family Services Division.

McDaniel said the company had no offices in Arkansas and hired no Arkansas employees. The company used a mail drop in Little Rock to mislead donors into believing that donations were used in Arkansas. All of the donations were forwarded to the Florida headquarters of the organization.

The suit, filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court, claims the company violated provisions of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, including failure to register as a charity with the Attorney General's Office.

"Fundraising organizations in Arkansas are required to register with our office, and any Arkansans unsure about the legitimacy of such an operation should contact us," McDaniel said.

He added that Arkansas residents should inquire from telemarketers about the percentage of funds given to charity. By law, fundraisers are required to provide that information upon request. Often, a large portion of donated funds are retained by the telemarketer, not the charity.