For at least five long years, VetMade Industries of Tampa, an organization granted tax exempt status by the IRS, raked in millions in donations.
Contrary to what VetMade told the public, it trained no disabled or unemployed veterans.
The doors of the so-called charity remained closed.
The entire time VetMade collected money behind its locked doors, it never lost its IRS tax-exempt charitable status.
Florida’s Attorney General put the bogus charity on ice following a series of reports by 8 On Your Side.
While unemployed disabled veterans languished in misery looking for help, VetMade Industries collected $6.5 million in donations.
It helped no one.
“Floridians on a daily basis are being scammed and that ends under my administration,” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody told 8 On Your Side.
Following our reports about VetMade, the Attorney General lowered the boom.
It forced VetMade and founder John Campbell, a retired Army Lt. Colonel, out of business.
According to a settlement reached with Campbell, he is now prohibited from raising or receiving charitable donations, operating any charity and he turned a $250,000 check over to the Attorney General, payable to the Florida Veterans Foundation.
“So where are the feds?” asked retired Green Beret and former VetMade volunteer Ken Cook.
“Where’s the IRS? This is $6.5 million fraud against the federal government.”
While Campbell collected money without delivering any services, Vetmade kept its IRS tax exempt status.
“This is outrageous,” Daniel Borochoff, president of Charity Watch said.
“It does show you that we don’t have enough oversight of the nonprofits and charities, that this kind of bad behavior can go on year after year.”
Campbell paid about 90 percent of the $6.5 million in contributions to a fundraiser called Just Donated, located in California.
That left VetMade with more than $300,000 in the bank.
“Campbell had to be involved as VetMade Industries for them to advertise their donation, to get a dime,” Cook explained.
Cook believes Campbell should have received a harsher penalty.
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection division is civil.
By reaching a settlement with Campbell, it effectively put him out of business, and is able to put $250,000 of the money VetMade received to good use.
If they ended up in court with Campbell, he might have used a good portion of it for attorneys fees.
While Cook is disappointed that no criminal charges have yet been filed, he is grateful VetMade was exposed.
“Thank you guys,” he said.
“People have a lot to learn from what you guys do right, that’s done wrong in a lot of places.”
Campbell has not responded to a request for a comment.
If you have something that you think should be investigated, call our 8 On Your Side Helpline at 1-800-338-0808. Contact Steve Andrews at email@example.com.