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July 11, 2013

LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Dustin McDaniel filed a consumer-protection lawsuit today against a New Jersey not-for-profit organization and its Conway-based fundraising partner for misleading Arkansans into believing money they donated to the organization was benefiting the state’s emergency responders.

The lawsuit alleges that the National Police Defense Foundation contributed to charitable purposes only $500 of the $231,004 it raised in the state. The bulk of the money went to USA Publishing Group Inc. of Conway, which was retained by the foundation to solicit donations from Arkansas consumers.

The National Police Defense Foundation, USA Publishing and USA Publishing owners William Parker and Kathleen Parker are defendants in the suit filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court.

“Arkansas consumers who believed they were donating their hard-earned dollars to help police, firefighters and emergency responders were instead duped into filling the coffers of a telemarketing company,” McDaniel said. “Consumers deserve to get that money back. Schemes like this have no place in Arkansas.”

McDaniel alleges that the defendants violated the state’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act by intentionally making false, untrue or misleading statements to prospective donors. According to the complaint, the telemarketers often misrepresented themselves as police officers, firefighters or first responders. NPDF operated in Arkansas under assumed names such as “Arkansas Police Defense Foundation,” “Deputy Sheriffs and Peace Officers Foundation,” and “Firefighters and EMS Foundation.”

The defendants intentionally gave the false impression that the charity was based in Arkansas, according to the complaint. They asked that money be sent to an in-state office that purportedly housed the Arkansas Police Defense Foundation. However, the address was that of USA Publishing, the paid solicitor.

McDaniel alleges that of the $231,004 collected in Arkansas, $171,193 was paid to the professional fundraisers. Nationwide for the 2012 fiscal year, 75.9 percent of all donations to the organization went toward professional fundraising fees. The Center for Investigative Reporting and Tampa Bay Times have identified the National Police Defense Foundation as one of the nation’s top 50 worst charities.

The Attorney General’s lawsuit asks the court to order the defendants to stop making misleading claims, provide restitution to Arkansas consumers and pay civil penalties, attorneys’ fees and costs.