MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Attorney General Keith Ellison has helped shut down a fundraising operation that allegedly scammed customers out of millions of dollars.
The operation, called Outreach Calling, Inc. is owned by Mark Gelvan, with associates Thomas Berkenbush, William English, and Damian Muziani.
The ban on the company is the result of a lawsuit brought forth by Ellison, the Federal Trade Commission, and the attorneys general of New York, Virginia, and New Jersey.
According to the complaint, the defendants served as the primary fundraises for a number of sham charities, saying they would use customers’ donations to help homeless veterans, retired and disabled law enforcement officers, breast cancer survivors, and others.
However, they allegedly kept 90% of the money for themselves, and sometimes only contributed 2% of the raised funds to the promised charitable missions.
This is not the first time the defendants have come in conflict with the law. They have worked together for around 30 years, and have been the subject of law enforcement actions as far back as 1996. In 2009, the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office permanently banned another company that the defendants operated from making misrepresentations when soliciting charitable donations in Minnesota.
Under the proposed settlements, all the defendants are permanently banned from participating in any charity fundraising. Though all four are subject to monetary judgement, they are only required to surrender a portion of that money. Gelvan is required to surrender $800,000 and two New Jersey homes. English must surrender $30,000, while Muziani is required to surrender $12,369 and Berkenbush is required to surrender $5,000.