Attorney General Ellison bans alleged sham veterans’ charity from soliciting in Minnesota
Settlement requires defendants Healing Heroes Network and Hero Giveaways to permanently cease all charitable solicitations; requires individual defendants to pay $95K to be donated to veterans’ charity
January 12, 2021 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison today filed a settlement requiring Healing Heroes Network, Inc., to permanently cease all charitable solicitations due to its misleading solicitation practices. Hero Giveaways, LLC, a for-profit business formed by directors of the Florida-based non-profit Healing Heroes Network, Inc., must also cease its alleged deceptive charitable solicitation practices. The Assurance of Discontinuance filed in Ramsey County District Court further requires Healing Heroes Network’s former directors — Stacey Spiegel, Allan Spiegel, and Neal Spiegel — to pay $95,000 and subjects them to a five-year ban from overseeing, managing, or soliciting charitable contributions for any nonprofit organization.
The money paid by defendants will be donated to a veterans’ charity whose mission matches the representations made by Healing Heroes Network, Inc., when it solicited approximately $56,000 from Minnesotans from 2015–2017.
“It’s appalling that a supposed charity would use wounded veterans to exploit Minnesotans’ generosity,” Attorney General Ellison said. “We all owe a debt of gratitude to our veterans. As Attorney General, I will continue to aggressively pursue any organization that deceptively uses veterans to persuade Minnesotans to donate their hard-earned dollars to illegitimate causes.”
The Attorney General’s Office’s investigation revealed that Healing Heroes Network allegedly used deceptive and misleading charitable solicitations via sweepstakes and telemarketing, and misused charitable contributions intended to provide medical care and other benefits to veterans injured in Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11. Healing Heroes Network promised to use donations to help wounded veterans receive medical treatments that the Department of Veterans Affairs did not readily provide. The charity also falsely claimed on social media in 2016 and 2017 to dedicate 100% of proceeds to wounded veterans.
In reality, very little of the charitable contributions received by Healing Heroes Network, Inc., were used to further this charitable mission. Instead, donations were used to pay professional fundraisers, online advertising fees, the salaries of Stacey Spiegel and her son, Neal Spiegel, and to purchase t-shirts from another family’s member’s t-shirt business.
This settlement stems from a multistate investigation by the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office and a bipartisan group of attorneys general from 10 other states: California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia, Washington.
Tips before donating to charities claiming to help veterans
- Do your homework first. Investigate how a charity actually uses donations that it receives. People can research this information using the “Search for Charities” tab of Attorney General’s website, www.ag.state.mn.us, or by calling the Attorney General’s Office at (651) 296-3353 or (800) 657-3787. Additional guidance about giving to charities is also available on the Attorney General’s website.
- Be wary of high-pressure tactics. Don’t feel pressured to donate on the spot just because a charity claims to have an urgent need. This should be especially true if the person asking for money contacts you through unrequested telemarketing calls or mail solicitations. Reputable charities will happily accept your donation when you are ready to give.
You may submit complaints about similar situations using an online complaint form on the Attorney General’s website at www.ag.state.mn.us/Office/Complaint.asp. For additional information, you may also contact the Attorney General’s Office, as follows:
Office of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison
445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1400
St. Paul, MN 55101
(651) 296-3353 (Twin Cities Calling Area)
(800) 657-3787 (Outside the Twin Cities)
(800) 627-3529 (Minnesota Relay)