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December 05, 2013

LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Dustin McDaniel filed a consumer-protection lawsuit today against an Arizona organization accused of misleading Arkansans into believing their donations would benefit the children of American veterans.

(Click here for a copy of the lawsuit.)

McDaniel’s lawsuit alleges that the Children of Veterans Foundation diverts the clothing items donated by Arkansas consumers to a for-profit company operated by one of the two directors of the nonprofit foundation. Though consumers are encouraged to donate used clothing items and shoes to “give back to those who protect our freedom,” the lawsuit states that the donations are instead used solely for the personal benefit and financial gain of the defendants.

Defendants in the lawsuit are Donna Renfroe and Randy Taylor, both of Arizona, the Phoenix-based Children of Veterans Foundation and the for-profit Give Back to Freedom LLC. Renfroe and Taylor are the directors of the foundation. Taylor is the sole shareholder in Give Back to Freedom LLC.

“Our veterans put their lives on the line for our country and our freedom, and it is appalling to think that someone would exploit their service for personal gain,” McDaniel said. “Not only that, but this company’s actions harm legitimate charities that actually need and would put to good use the donations that consumers may provide.”

According to the complaint filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court, the defendants began soliciting donations by placing at least 10 collection bins in parking lots in northwest Arkansas. Advertisements in large type on the bins encourage consumers donate to “those who protect our freedom” and say “Proud to support: Children of Veterans 501(c)(3) foundation.”

However, a disclaimer in smaller type on the box states that the “collection site is owned by Give Back to Freedom, LLC, a for-profit company. Items received at this location will be sold to Give Back to Freedom, LLC.” That disclaimer is not readable unless the consumer is standing near the collection box.

The lawsuit states that using the items to support a for-profit company is inconsistent with the intent of the donors and that the defendants are in violation of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

In addition, the defendants have failed to register as charities or paid solicitors with the Attorney General’s Office, as is required under state law.

McDaniel asked the Court to order the defendants to cease their illegal practices and pay restitution to affected consumers, in addition to civil penalties, attorneys’ fees and costs.

The Arizona-based Children of Veterans organization is not related to or affiliated with the Arkansas corporation of the same name based in Magnolia.