NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — More than 200 non-profit organizations are registered with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office.
Team 5 Investigates’ questions to one local veterans charity and the telemarketer it hired to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars were met with angry responses and few answers.
Gerald Anacleto, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, tried to hide his face from Team 5 Investigates’ cameras rather than talk about the nearly half-a-million dollars he’s raised since 2009 as founder and president of Massachusetts Veterans Emergency Fund.
“Get away. Get away from me,” Anacleto said when NewsCenter 5’s Sean Kelly asked to “talk about your non-profit.”
The New Bedford-based group is registered to a vacant home owned by Anacleto. After he did not respond to multiple interview requests, Team 5 went to the address, where Anacleto again declined to talk with us. Moments later our cameras captured him running away.
Kelly asked, “Can you tell us about your non-profit? Where’s all the money going?”
Team 5 Investigates uncovered documents filed with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office that show in 2011, the non-profit received $317,461 in donations from the public.
In 2010, documents show it collected $151,736.
But just 9 percent of all that money — $40,257 – actually went to the Massachusetts Veterans Emergency Fund.
Kelly asked Anacleto, “Who’s getting the money? The veterans aren’t getting the money, are they?”
“Yes, they are of course they are,” said Anacleto.
He declined to name specific organizations that benefitted.
Kelly: “Who’s getting all the money?
Anacleto: “The veterans!”
Kelly: “Which veterans? You tell me who they are.”
Anacleto: “You go to my website.”
His charity’s website claims several groups have received checks since 2009. Team 5 Investigates attempted to contact all of them listed online as well as those listed on a form filed with the attorney general.
The most any organization said they received in three years was $500.
Two groups – the Old Soldiers Home in Holyoke and the Nam Vets Association of the Cape and the Islands — said they did not receive a penny from the Massachusetts Veterans Emergency Fund in 2011.
In 1989, Anacleto pleaded guilty to kidnapping and conspiracy to kidnap and served time in federal prison. Court documents state the crimes were connected to drug smuggling.
please see: Charity Navigator <- click
Tax forms filed in connection with Anacleto’s non-profit do not list what, if any, salary he was paid. Where did the bulk of the money donated to the charity go?
Team 5 Investigates discovered that in the last two years, more than 85 percent of donations given to the Massachusetts Veterans Emergency Fund did not, in fact, go to veterans, but rather to State Wide Marketing, the Fall River-based telemarketer contracted by the charity.
When Team 5 Investigates visited State Wide’s offices, its manager and employee swore at and yelled threats and racial slurs at our crew.
They eventually told Team 5 Investigates, “We’re licensed and bonded with the state. Please leave.”
That is true. Anacleto’s charity and State Wide are both legally registered with the state.
They report directly to the attorney general’s office exactly how much of the donations they keep.
But when Natasha Bellow got a call from State Wide asking to donate money to the Massachusetts Veterans Emergency Fund, Bellow said the person on the other end of the phone lied to her about how much of her donation would go to veterans.
“When I asked them directly how much goes to the group and they said 100 percent,” Bellow said.
She also said her complaint to Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office was ignored. Coakley declined Team 5 Investigates’ request for an interview.
Michael Cunningham, the veterans’ services officer for Milton and Randolph, said the attorney general’s office should “absolutely” be doing more to warn the public.
At least two local police departments have issued warnings about the Massachusetts Veterans Emergency Fund.
Cunningham and other veterans’ services officers said they have told Anacleto to stop fundraising this way.
“The last thing I said to him was, ‘How do you sleep at night?’ and he said, ‘I sleep very well, sir, thank you,’ and he hung up on me.”
State Wide’s manager called the Fall River police when Team 5 Investigates showed up to ask questions.
Finally, he showed NewsCenter 5 a letter from Anacleto’s accountant which stated the non-profit and telemarketer would sever ties after complaints from several veterans’ services officers and questions from Team 5 Investigates.
It’s not illegal for telemarketers to keep such a large percentage of donations.
According to a recent report from the attorney general, telemarketers keep an average of 55 percent of money collected.
Coakley declined to tell NewsCenter 5 if she will investigate allegations that State Wide Marketing misled potential donors over the phone.
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For a list of charities AND how much goes to The Veteran please see: Charity Navigator