Man sentenced to six months in jail for charity scam

A Michigan man who set up fake collection boxes for missing children programs has been sentenced to serve six months in jail.

According to the attorney general's office, Joseph Carr placed donation boxes at 88 retail locations across the Lansing area between February and June 2009 and collected between $1,500 and $2,000 a month. Consumers were told their money would go to an organization called the Beacon Project to help find missing children. But Carr pocketed the money and allegedly used it to pay his personal living expenses.
Michigan's attorney general's office began investigating Joseph Carr after receiving a tip from a Michigan State Police officer. Joy Yearout, a spokeswoman for the attorney general, told Consumer Ally that the officer, who works on missing children projects, became suspicious after spotting one of the boxes in a coffee shop. He then contacted programs he had worked with to see if the boxes were legitimate before calling the attorney general's office to look into the charity scam.

Car was convicted of one count of false pretenses over $1,000, one count of soliciting charitable donations without a license and one count of acting as a professional fundraiser without filling a license application, a six-month misdemeanor.

In addition to the jail sentence, Carr must serve 60 months on probation, perform 480 hours of community service and pay $12,000 in restitution to the Michigan Amber Alert Foundation.

Under state law, most Michigan charities must apply for and receive a solicitation license from the attorney general's office. Charities that collect money must also have a license and maintain a $10,000 bond.

"We want people to know that when you impersonate a legitimate charity, you could face jail time," Yearout said. "There's a price and a penalty...it's a serious crime."

Yearout urges consumers to contact her office if they are ever in doubt of a charitable organization's standing. They can also call the Attorney General's Charitable Trust Section at (517) 373-1152.

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