Attorney General Abbott Bars Work Of Houston-Area Law Enforcement Charity
AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Harris County Attorney Mike Stafford jointly filed a lawsuit in Houston Monday afternoon to put a halt to the fraudulent telemarketing practices and financial improprieties of the Texas Police Officers Alliance (TPOA).
(Cover letter, registration with Secretary of State, TPOA brochure - front & back)
The two announced the suit today at a Houston Police Officers Memorial news conference denouncing such "badge fraud" schemes that exploit sympathies for families of fallen officers.
The charity and its officers - Gayln Pat Davis, Pamela J. Davis and David Moran - promised potential donors that the fund-raising work they do directly benefits "all Texas police officers," providing death benefits for families of slain officers and scholarships for dependents.
The Attorney General's Office obtained financial records to show that the defendants deposited almost $300,000 into the charity's account by late January 2003. Of this amount, only $500 has been written to benefit families of three deputies. This gesture of goodwill, however, occurred only after the charity received an Attorney General's "civil investigative demand" requesting information, similar to a subpoena in criminal proceedings.
"We believe the people who are running this bogus police charity intended to supplement their retirement through fraudulent means, with no intention of helping families in real need," Attorney General Abbott said. "They give the word 'charity' a bad name. I want to send a clear message to those who seek to exploit the families of fallen officers and the citizens of Houston. We will not tolerate this deception."
In addition to family death benefits, the TPOA led the public to believe it earmarked money for law enforcement education scholarships and provided a "Distinguished Officer Award" for bravery in the line of duty. As for scholarships, the defendants failed to even establish application procedures for these funds or notify police departments they would be available. Instead, the donated money went for salaries and business expenses.
The defendants explained that they had failed to raise sufficient funds to pay for these programs, yet they consistently represented to the public that the money goes directly for these purposes. The group also paid local high school students in the Klein area to directly solicit potential donors in the Houston area by phone.
The organization did not post a required bond to allow for this activity. Gayln Davis formerly served as a police officer for the Klein Independent School District.
The defendants have been cited in this lawsuit for numerous violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act, including misleading the public about their affiliations, the scope of their charitable services, and the intended use of the donated proceeds.
The group initially registered as public safety promoters with the Texas Secretary of State in February 2002. The defendants continue to operate this fraudulent charity, even after allowing this registration to lapse last February, placing them in violation of the Occupations Code.
The Attorney General's lawsuit requests an independent accountant's review of the charity's funds, the cost of which is to be borne by the defendants. The suit also requests penalties, attorneys' fees and investigative costs.