Charity fraud probe nets unwitting celebrity catch

A multimillion-dollar suit filed by the California State Attorney General’s office against an Orange County commercial fund-raiser has netted some unwitting entertainment people in the process.

The suit, filed Friday against the Orange County Charitable Services of Irvine, charges that the company had set up three charities mainly for the purpose of raising money for the fund-raisers, not the charities.

The groups are the American Veterans Assistance Corp., the United Citizens Against Drugs and Stop the Pain, dedicated to helping prevent child abuse.

While all three actually raised money for their causes, most of the money was going elsewhere, the AG’s office contends.

“In this case we found that 90% of the money was actually going to the commercial fund-raisers,” said Chet Horn, deputy attorney general of the AG’s Charitable Trusts Section. He said that of the $ 8 million raised since 1988, only $ 400,000 went to charity.

The fund-raisers had convinced several celebrities to let their names be attached for the charitable causes, including Edward James Olmos, Angie Dickinson, Robert Stack and Ed McMahon.

McMahon told Daily Variety he became involved with the Veterans charity through a woman he had known in high school.

McMahon agreed to let the American Veterans Assistance Corp. use his name in their efforts.

“These celebrities had no idea that these things were fraudulent,” Horn said.

David Horowitz, CNBC’s consumer reporter (who has been investigating this charity fraud), said that although celebrities are constantly hit upon to help raise funds, he believes very few stars bother to check out the validity of the charities that use their names.

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