Called out

On Friday, Dec. 27, The nonprofit newsroom the Center for Public Integrity released a story by reporter Sarah Kleiner and data editor Chris Zubak-Skees regarding an investigation into the charity Law Enforcement Officers Relief Fund based out of Sarasota, Florida. Many people across the country, including here in Nevada, have likely heard from telemarketers soliciting donations for the fund—but according to the CPI investigation, the money of those who’ve given to the fund has mostly been used to pay for more telemarketers.

According to story, “the fund is one of several organizations related to the International Union of Police Associations, AFL-CIO, itself a nonprofit based in Sarasota, Florida, that represents local chapters of police unions across the country. IUPA is one of about 70 affiliates of the national AFL-CIO and touts itself as ‘the only union for law enforcement officers.’”

Reporters who investigated the union and relief fund found that between 2011 and March 2018, the organizations had spent about $106.3 million dollars but that “about $82.3 million of that amount—77 percent—paid for fundraising services.”

Also according the report, the International Union of Police Associations has a “D-minus” rating from the Better Business Bureau “for failing to respond to 15 complaints against it.”

The reporters also discovered that the police union and relief fund have ties to companies in Nevada. Both have contracted with “Courtesy Call, Donor Relations and a handful of other companies owned by Las Vegas telemarketer Richard Zeitlin.”

Another telemarketing company the union and fund contract with is Outreach Calling, based in New Jersey and owned by a man named Mark Gelvan. CPI has done extensive investigations on both Zeitlin and Gelvan, as have government regulators.

According to the CPI report, “the Federal Trade Commission was investigating whether Zeitlin’s Courtesy Call and Donor Relations companies were ‘engaging in unfair or deceptive acts or practices,’ but the agency dropped the matter in the fall of 2018, citing an ongoing grand jury investigation in Florida involving the two companies. In 2004, state officials in New York banned Gelvan from fundraising in the state, in part because his solicitors impersonated police officers when they asked for donations.”