AG reaches settlement in charity lawsuit


First Posted: 10/2/2013

LIMA — Two people reached settlements and another reached a temporary agreement with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office in a charitable solicitation case involving a Youngstown company accused of using deceptive tactics to solicit donations for police and firemen in Allen County.

William and Waive Sharp reached an agreement to not solicit money for three months, pay a $250 fine, complete training through the state, cooperate with the attorney general’s office and obey the law, said Ashley Rodabaugh, an assistant Ohio Attorney General.

Two other parties in the lawsuit, Joseph Chiovitti and his company, Encore Music Productions, agreed to a settlement only while the case plays out to turn all checks in possession over to the charitable organizations the checks are made out to. Chiovitti can sell off property related to his business and refer clients or phone calls to other professional solicitors, his attorney, John Huffman said.

“It’s Mr. Chiovitti’s plan to go out of business,” Huffman said.

Huffman said they may be able to reach a full settlement to get his clients out of the case but these terms will be in effect during the preliminary injunction.

Two other men, Kingsley Harris and Phillip Howells, have agreed on the preliminary injunction but can use money in the bank to pay employees for past services.

Meanwhile, the case remains pending and there remains nearly a dozen other defendants to reach and try to negotiate settlements. Some have not been notified of the lawsuit yet, Rodabaugh said.

Judge Jeffrey Reed scheduled a Nov. 4 pretrial and plans to hold a hearing on the permanent injunction early next year.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit and was awarded preliminary injunction temporarily halting solicitations by the companies. The attorney general alleges the company and people named in the lawsuit were illegally soliciting money for firefighters and police charities.

“The telemarketers used misleading tactics to solicit donations from Ohio families under the pretense of supporting police and firefighters,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said last week.

The 42-count action alleged 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 action named 18 parties as defendants, none of whom were from Allen County. The case was filed in Lima since some of the victims were here and it gave the attorney general’s office the best chance at success.

Since 2006, Encore has solicited for more than 30 organizations in Ohio and four in Pennsylvania by selling tickets and business advertisements for concerts.

Some of the allegations in the lawsuit were lying to donors by saying 100 percent of donations went to charities when it was less than 33 percent, using convicted felons as telemarketers and providing false identification.

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