September 25, 2013

Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane, Ohio Attorney General sue Ohio telemarketer following joint investigation

HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane today filed a lawsuit against Youngstown-based Encore Music Productions Ltd., its agents, and the fraternal organizations on whose behalf it solicited charitable donations for firefighter organizations. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine also filed a lawsuit against Encore and others.

"Encore purposefully hired and trained telemarketers to scam Pennsylvanians who believed they were supporting local firefighters," alleged Attorney General Kane. "The Office of Attorney General has zero tolerance for any fraudsters that take advantage of the generosity of Pennsylvanians, and I thank the Ohio Attorney General's Office for its assistance with this investigation.

Since 2006, Encore solicited donations for four organizations in Pennsylvania and more than 30 organizations in Ohio by selling tickets and business advertisements for local concerts.

An initial investigation found that Encore and its agents Phil's Productions LLC, and MVP Productions committed several violations including:

  • Lying to donors by saying 100 percent of donations went to a local charity, when only 10 to 33 percent went to charity.
  • Training telemarketers to falsely identify themselves as volunteers or firefighters.
  • Failing to identify themselves as professional solicitors.
  • Hiring more than 13 recently convicted felons as telemarketers in violation of Pennsylvania law.
  • Failing to properly register with the Pennsylvania Department of State's Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations.

The five-count civil lawsuit, filed in Commonwealth Court, alleges violations of Pennsylvania's Solicitation of Funds for Charitable Purposes Act for deceptive acts and practices. Attorney General Kane is seeking an order that includes shutting down the enterprise, and redistributing its assets to legitimate charities.

The Pennsylvania lawsuit names numerous defendants, including: Encore Music Productions Ltd. of Boardman; Phil's Productions LLC of Youngstown; Joseph Chiovitti of Youngstown; Philip Howells of Youngstown; M.V.P. Productions LLC of Cambridge; and Martin Vernello of East Liverpool.

Attorney General Kane said her efforts to protect Pennsylvania consumers will not stop at state lines, and she will continue to work with fellow Attorneys General to prevent citizens and charities in the Commonwealth from becoming victims of fraud.  

Reporting and Researching Charities in Pennsylvania
Suspicious charitable activity can be reported to the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office by calling the Charitable Trusts and Organizations Section at 717-783-2853 or visiting www.attorneygeneral.gov.

The Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations within the Pennsylvania Department of State maintains registration and financial information for more than 11,000 charities and 400 professional solicitors and fundraising counsels. Consumers can search the database by visiting www.dos.state.pa.us and clicking "Charities."
 

(A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty.)
# # #