Attorney General Janet Mills today announced a settlement between 24 states and VietNow National Headquarters, Inc., an Illinois nonprofit corporation, resulting in the organization’s dissolution.
In March 2017, attorneys general throughout the country began investigating VietNow for allegedly making thousands of deceptive solicitations and misrepresenting its charitable programs to donors. These investigations led to the present negotiated resolution. Maine residents donated almost $9,000 to VietNow as a result of these deceptive solicitations.
The settlement resolves the allegations by appointing a receiver to dissolve VietNow. The settlement also obtains injunctive relief against VietNow’s directors and officers and requires their cooperation in investigations of VietNow’s professional fundraisers. Upon dissolution, VietNow’s remaining funds will be paid to two national and well-respected veterans charities, Fisher House Foundation and Operation Homefront.
“Maine people are always generous in our support of our veterans and active duty servicemen and women,” said Attorney General Mills. “It is unconscionable that an organization would take advantage of our generous spirit and commitment to veterans to scam Mainers. This kind of deception detracts from the efforts of legitimate organizations to help our veterans.”
Since March 2015, VietNow—which also uses the name VeteransNow—has been raising money using deceptive telemarketing solicitation scripts. The scripts, which were used by professional fundraiser Corporations for Character, told potential donors that VietNow gave a minimum of 12 percent after expenses back to veterans in the donors’ state; other scripts stated that donations helped local veterans in the donors’ state. But in response to the investigation by the attorneys general, VietNow admitted that it had not funded any programs that assisted local veterans. Other VietNow scripts claimed that VietNow provided “medical facilities and treatment” to veterans, but again, VietNow could identify no such programs.
In its most recent financial statement, VietNow reported raising nearly $2 million nationwide. But most of this money was paid to professional fundraisers, with less than 5% of funds raised going to any charitable programs.