Monday, March 3, 2008

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Attorney General Abbott Takes Action to Halt Badge Fraud Scheme Targeting Business Owners Nationwide

HOUSTON – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott obtained a temporary injunction against Brian Brumfield and his Houston-based business, Thornbrooks Shapiro, LLC, for operating an illegal “badge fraud” scheme. According to court documents filed by the Attorney General, the defendant illegally solicited charitable contributions nationwide, claiming the donations would benefit families of peace officers killed in the line of duty.

The Attorney General’s enforcement action, which includes an asset freeze based on evidence Brumfield unlawfully converted those contributions into cash for his personal use, is in addition to a criminal investigation launched by federal authorities. Brumfield was arrested last week and released after posting $15,000 bond.

Media links

1998 Arrest Photo
of Brian Duane Brumfield

Sample Sheriff's Journal
Fraudulent Invoices
Petition Against Sheriff's Journal
Temporary restraining order against Brian Brumfield
Temporary Injunction against Brian Brumfield

“This defendant is charged with raising charitable contributions for fallen peace officers’ families and illegally using those donations for his personal use,” Attorney General Abbott said. “Badge fraud schemes take advantage of both generous contributors and the law enforcement officials who should benefit from those charitable contributions. Together with state and federal authorities, we will aggressively prosecute this defendant for violating Texas law.”

According to investigators, Brumfield solicits small business owners by offering advertisements in “The Sheriff’s Journal” and similarly-titled publications. The defendant claimed “The Sheriff’s Journal” was published nationally to raise money for families of fallen law enforcement officers. However, investigators discovered that the magazines do not actually exist and provide no benefit to law enforcement officers or their families.

Several small business owners complained the defendant sent them fraudulent invoices totaling between $100 and $600 for advertisements that were never ordered or authorized. Claiming the advertising had already been printed, the defendant continued sending invoices and harassing businesses with telephone calls demanding payment, even after business owners disputed their bills. Some businesses paid the fraudulent invoices in an effort to avoid further telephone calls.

The Office of the Attorney General also uncovered evidence indicating the defendant immediately converted advertising money he received into cash for his personal benefit. There is no evidence that any money was provided to the families of fallen officers. Financial documents indicate Brumfield has operated the scheme since at least May 2006, pocketing as much as $10,000 to $19,000 a month.

Attorney General investigators determined that business owners in Texas and at least 27 other states issued checks to the defendant. Those other states are: Alabama; Arizona; Arkansas; California; Colorado; Connecticut; Delaware; Florida; Georgia; Indiana; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Maryland; Massachusetts; Mississippi; New Hampshire; New Mexico; New York; North Carolina; Ohio; Oklahoma; Oregon; Tennessee; Vermont; Virginia and Washington.

Brumfield, 38, has a criminal record dating back to 1989, including misdemeanor theft. In 1996, he was arrested for felony credit card abuse and was sentenced to five years probation. He violated probation in 1998 and served a six-month jail sentence.

Brumfield faces penalties of up to $20,000 per violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Violations include misleading the public about his operation’s affiliations; the scope of its charitable services; and the intended use of the donated proceeds.

Brumfield also is charged with failing to register with the Office of the Attorney General as required by the Texas Law Enforcement Telephone Solicitation Act (TLETSA). Under TLETSA, any organization that claims to be fundraising for law enforcement or other public service agencies must register with the Office of the Attorney General. The defendant also is charged with violations of the Texas Occupations Code, which requires telemarketers to register and post a bond with the Texas Secretary of State.

To report suspected badge fraud or telemarketing abuse, contact the Office of the Attorney at (800) 252-8011 or visit the agency’s Web site at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.