Attorney General Hardy Myers today announced that the Department of Justice entered into a $35,000 settlement with Official Publications, a California periodical company that the Department sued in November for deceptive solicitations. Named in the judgment are the Santa Ana company and its President Jim Voelkl of Tustin, California and the company's Oregon representative, Tom Fuhrman of Portland. Fuhrman's current location is unknown and a federal warrant has been issued for his arrest on parole violation and other federal charges.
The lawsuit was filed in November 1998 in conjunction with Operation Missed Giving, an effort coordinated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) to educate consumers about charitable giving fraud. A temporary restraining order also was obtained and the company and its employees were prevented from soliciting in the state until the case was settled.
The Department alleged that the company lied to Oregon businesses concerning the company's status as a non-profit and its association with law enforcement agencies. Investigators found both claims to be false along with many other misleading representations including company representatives trying to sell advertisements in its 911 Magazine by falsely claiming that proceeds would benefit the DARE program and that window decals sent to advertisers could prevent them from being pulled over by the police.
The settlement includes a ban on soliciting advertisements for periodicals of any kind in Oregon pending the money judgment being satisfied in this case. Defendants agree to pay $7,500 to the Department of Justice to use as restitution to donors and advertisers and $2,500 for attorney fees and investigative costs. A $25,000 civil penalty will not be executed against defendants Voelkl and Official Publications make timely payments to the state.
Voelkl and his company also are prohibited from making claims to subscribers or advertisers that magazines sold by them are published by public benefit organizations unless there is a nonprofit organization beneficiary and the agents and the fundraising campaign has been registered with the State of Oregon.
The defendants further agree to make clear and conspicuous disclosures if company agents sell advertising in Oregon for magazines or periodicals that are connected to law enforcements or public safety but not published by them. The disclosures, orally before selling and in writing 10 days after a sale, include that the company is a for-profit organization and none of the advertising proceeds would go to charity and that the magazines have no relationship with a police agency or association.
Many Oregonians donate money to law enforcement associations through professional fundraisers raising money on their behalf. Solicitors must identify themselves as professionals and if asked by potential donors must disclose the split between the fundraiser and the association.
Consumers and business wanting more information on charitable giving should call the Attorney General's consumer hotline at (503) 378-4320 or (503) 229-5576 (Portland only) and request copies of the Department's charitable giving guides. Callers also should inquire about complaints against the company and if the company is registered with the State of Oregon.
Jan Margosian, (503) 947-4333 (media line only) firstname.lastname@example.org