(DES MOINES, Iowa) Attorney General Tom Miller accused a for-profit Arizona company of using “blatant lies” to solicit funds from Iowans in the name of helping people with disabilities.
A telephone solicitor seeking money on behalf of Americans With Disabilities, LLC, of Phoenix, Arizona, falsely claimed during a solicitation that he was blind and seeking a guide dog, that he served in the Vietnam War and was exposed to Agent Orange, that his daughter recently died of cystic fibrosis, and that he is a native Iowan, according to an undercover telephone recording and lawsuit filed by Miller Friday in Polk County District Court.
“We allege these claims were blatant lies designed to elicit sympathy and money,” said Miller. “The solicitor knew his lies would stir up emotion and likely raise his income. What he didn’t know is that we were recording his phone call.”
Americans With Disabilities, LLC, a for-profit company that sells products by phone, including $45 tins of cookies, purports to use its profits to help disabled people. A company product insert states that it makes “a special effort to enable handicapped or otherwise disadvantaged workers” by paying “a great percentage” of sales proceeds to workers who “have had trouble in obtaining employment in the mainstream workforce.”
On March 8, 2011, a solicitor calling on behalf of Americans With Disabilities, LLC called a phone number once associated with an older Iowan, but which has since been utilized as an undercover recorded phone line maintained by the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division.
When served with an Attorney General’s subpoena relating to the recorded claims, Dale R. Sieck, who is listed on various business websites as the owner of Americans With Disabilities, LLC, responded that the independent solicitor on the recording is “assumed to be” Jeffrey A. Balke of Phoenix, Arizona. In responding to the subpoena, Balke admitted he is not blind, though he needs glasses; he did not serve in the Vietnam War; his three children are grown with no health problems; and that he is not a native Iowan, though he offers that he has “been through DeBuke,” a reference to Dubuque, Iowa.
In his petition, Miller asked for and received a temporary injunction restraining the defendants from engaging in deceptive practices and violating the Iowa Consumer Fraud Act. Miller is also asking for civil penalties for violations of the Consumer Fraud Act, and enhanced penalties for each Consumer Fraud Act violation committed against an older person.
While this case involves a for-profit company and not a charitable organization, Miller reminds Iowans to give, but to give wisely by being aware of charity fraud. His advice includes being leery of a sympathetic name or sales pitch, asking specific questions about how the organization spends its money, and requesting written information.
There are many excellent charities soliciting contributions in Iowa, and the Attorney General's Office is eager to stop fundraising abuses and uphold the integrity of our system of giving.
If you think you may have been cheated by a fundraising scheme, contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division through the Attorney General’s website. You can also call us at 515-281-5926, or toll-free at 888-777-4590. Or write us at Attorney General Consumer Protection Division, Hoover Building, Des Moines, Iowa 50319.