Secretary of State Mark Hammond announced Tuesday that his office has reached a settlement with the Veterans Support Organization, a charity in South Carolina that faces violations of Solicitation of the Charitable Funds Act . As part of the settlement, the Veterans Support Organization agreed to an administrative fine of $5,000.00 and a ban from soliciting in the state for the next 15 years.
Earlier this year, the Secretary of State alleged that the Veterans Support Organization, or VSO, had failed to register its employees as professional solicitors, as required under the Solicitation of Charitable Funds Act.
The Secretary of State also alleged that the VSO had misrepresented the percentage of the money it spent on charitable programs. Rather than registering its employees as professional solicitors, the VSO agreed to exit the state of South Carolina.
The VSO did not admit any wrongdoing as part of the agreement.
In a written statement, a spokesman for VSO said the organization didn't hire a lawyer to fight the state's claims because they didn't think it was a proper use of donated funds. Instead, they chose to just pay the fine and leave the state. Click here to read the statement from the Veterans Support Organization.
According to the last financial report filed with the Secretary of State, most of the money the VSO spends on its charitable programs is used to pay "jobless veterans and other needy Americans" to solicit contributions for the organization.
Although VSO employees are not necessarily veterans, they typically wear military-style uniforms when soliciting in front of popular retail establishments or on the street.
"As part of this agreement, the Veterans Service Organization is prohibited from soliciting charitable contributions in South Carolina for the next 15 years," said Secretary Hammond.
"I always ask South Carolinians to be vigilant anytime a charity asks for money, but in this case I have a special request. If you see the VSO soliciting in South Carolina, call our investigations division at (803) 734-1728. We need your help to protect the interests of donors and to hold accountable charitable organizations that violate the law."
Anyone with questions or concerns regarding a charitable organization may contact the Secretary of State's Division of Public Charities at (803) 734-2170 or firstname.lastname@example.org