Cops for Kids charity accused of fraud, bilking donors out of $4.2 million, Ohio AG says

CLEVELAND — The Ohio Cops for Kids charity is accused of bilking donors out of $4.2 million while the charity spent less than 2 percent of its money on charitable donations, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday by the Ohio Attorney General.

Attorney General Mike DeWine called the Ashtabula-based program a “sham” operation. The two organizers of the program, Thomas Duffy and Charles Hitzel, and Telcom Enterprises of Ohio, the telemarketing company the charity used to solicit donations, are all named as defendants in the lawsuit.

The charity, which was founded in 2004, has no affiliation with any police agencies.

The lawsuit says the charity between 2005 and 2015 used more than $3.3 million to pay Telecom, $614,000 were used for Hitzel’s and Duffy’s salaries, and only $73,840 went to charitable programs. Thousands of Ohioans across the state donated to the charity, DeWine said.

“If someone donated $100 to them, only 80 cents would go to charitable purposes,” DeWine said.

DeWine said his office is seeking a permanent injunction barring the charity and Telecom from soliciting donations in Ohio. They will also seek to have Duffy and Hitzel prohibited from working or running another non-profit charity and the Cops for Kids program dissolved.

They are also seeking restitution and fines.

The Cops for Kids’ mission is to provide money to help support children who are victims or whose family members are victims of crimes, according to the charity’s website.

They also run scholarship and educational programs, the website says.

DeWine said that they will refer their investigation to county prosecutors, but that he doesn’t believe there is a strong enough criminal case to pursue charges. He said his office filed the lawsuit because the charity misled donors and grossly misspent the donation money they brought in.

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Adam Ferrise, Advance Ohio Media