LIMA - An East Liverpool man is among those named in a lawsuit filed by the office of state Attorney General Mike DeWine.
DeWine's office issued a press release Wednesday saying it filed a lawsuit in Allen County Common Pleas Court and was granted a temporary restraining order against Youngstown-area Encore Music Productions Ltd. and its agents for deceiving donors while soliciting for firefighter and police charities. The Pennsylvania attorney general also filed a lawsuit against the business, the press release said.
"These telemarketers used misleading tactics to solicit donations from Ohio families under the pretense of supporting police and firefighters," DeWine was quoted as saying. "In some cases, they even pretended to be firefighters. This situation required immediate action to prevent further deception and fraud. Ohioans deserve to know the truth about their donations."
Since 2006, Encore has solicited for more than 30 organizations in Ohio and four organizations in Pennsylvania by selling tickets and business advertisements for local concerts.
Investigators claim Encore and its agents - Phil's Productions LLC, MVP Productions and Sharp Productions - committed several violations including:
- Lying to donors by saying 100 percent of donations went to a local charity, when only 10 to 33 percent went to charity.
- Training telemarketers to falsely identify themselves as volunteers or firefighters.
- Failing to identify themselves as professional solicitors.
- Hiring more than 22 recently convicted felons as telemarketers in violation of Ohio law.
- Failing to properly register with the Ohio Attorney General's Office.
The 42-count civil lawsuit alleges violations of Ohio's Corrupt Activities Act and the Ohio Charitable Organizations Act, including money laundering, mail and wire fraud, theft, and deceptive acts and practices. The suit seeks an order shutting down the enterprise, redistribution of its assets to legitimate charities, civil penalties, and other costs.
The lawsuit names 18 defendants:
- Encore Music Productions Ltd. of Boardman.
- Phil's Productions LLC of Youngstown.
- Joseph Chiovitti of Boardman; Philip Howells of Youngstown.
- MVP Productions LLC of Cambridge.
- Martin Vernello of East Liverpool.
- Kingsley Harris of Canfield.
- Jennifer Fairall of Campbell.
- Jessica Covington of Lowellville.
- Matthew Bocian of Youngstown.
- William Sharp and Waive Sharp, doing business as Sharp Productions, of Bucyrus.
- William Berrier of North Lima; Abby Makara of Youngstown.
- Laura Harper of Cambridge.
- Jaime Kegarise of Struthers.
- Esther Holmes of Youngstown; and John Douglas of Youngstown.