Charitable Organizations and Fraud
In Florida, most charities are required to register with the state and comply with specific regulatory requirements. Even companies that are not incorporated in Florida are subject to these regulations if they solicit contributions in or from the state. In fact, soliciting charitable contributions, or having funds solicited on your behalf in Florida, without being registered is punishable by a $1,000 fine per violation and even criminal prosecution, so if you are under investigation for charity-related fraud, it is critical to contact a white collar crime attorney who can help protect your rights.
Regulating Charitable Organizations
Florida law defines charitable organizations broadly as any company or person that holds itself out to as being established for a philanthropic purpose. Organizations that fall under this definition are required to comply with certain rules regarding solicitations. For instance, organizations are only permitted to solicit contributions for the purposes expressed by the sponsor or the registration statement. They must also include specific disclosures when making solicitations, including the name of the organization and state of the principal place of business, as well as a description of the organization’s purpose. If requested, they must also provide the following information to the person being solicited:
- The name, address, and telephone number of a representative of the organization who can answer questions;
- The amount of the contribution that will be deducted under federal tax law; and
- The sources from which a financial statement can be obtained.
Financial statements must also meet certain criteria, including that:
- They are provided within 14 days of the request;
- They state the purpose for which funds are being collected;
- They state the total amount of all contributions raised, the expenses incurred in the process of raising contributions, and the total dedicated to the organization’s purpose; and
- They disclose whether the services of another organization have been contracted to help with solicitation.
Companies who fail to comply with these rules face fines and in some cases, criminal penalties.
Accusations of fraud in relation to a charitable organization often include charges of:
- Submitting false, inaccurate, or misleading information;
- Misleadingly stating that another person or organization endorses a solicitation;
- Using an emblem or device that belongs to another charitable organization without written authorization;
- Using a name or symbol that is so similar to that of another organization that its use would mislead the public;
- Making false statements about a connection with the U.S. military;
- Misleading others to believe that a solicitation is being conducted on behalf of a charity;
- Stating that a charity will receive a fixed percentage of the gross revenue from a solicitation that is different than the number filed with the state;
- Soliciting contributions while wearing the uniform of a law enforcement officer or emergency service employee except in specific circumstances;
- Obtaining a contribution through deception, false promises, or misrepresentation; and
- Failing to remit the disclosed minimum percentage of gross receipts to a charitable organization.
Those who are accused of any of these actions face third degree felony charges, which could mean up to five years in prison.
Contact an Experienced White Collar Crime Attorney Today
If you have been accused of charity-related fraud, please contact Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A., Criminal Defense Attorneys at 305-670-9919 for a free case evaluation. Our Miami attorneys are eager to assist you today.