Florida’s Attorney General closed a bogus veterans charity based here in the Tampa Bay area following a series of reports by 8 On Your Side.
VetMade Industries collected millions in charitable donations to help train unemployed and disabled veterans.
An 8 On Your Side investigation discovered during the last 5 years, VetMade did not train one veteran.
Tax records show VetMade Industries collected $6.5 million while keeping its doors closed.
According to a settlement with the Florida Attorney General’s Office, VetMade founder John Campbell, a retired Army Lt. Colonel, admits to no wrongdoing.
He is prohibited from raising or receiving charitable donations and must donate $250,000 to a legitimate veterans charity.
The Attorney General’s Office states Campbell handed it a check for $250,000 made out to the Florida Veterans Foundation.
“Obviously they feel he’s guilty of something if he he’s coughing up a quarter of a million dollars,” Green Beret and former VetMade volunteer Ken Cook said.
Cook was one of the organization’s original volunteers.
“He knew better,” Cook said of John Campbell.
“It was an ongoing and deliberate fraud by an officer, a former officer who works with SOCOM (Special Operations Command).”
Campbell’s plan was to train veterans to make Adirondack-style wooden furniture to sell.
Instead, he collected money and banked it.
Last June, 8 On Your Side asked Campbell how he justified collecting money for the last five years, banking $300,000 and not helping any veterans.
“That’s tough and the optics are bad,” Campbell stated.
Campbell used a professional fundraiser named “Just Donated,” based in California.
It claimed 93 percent of the funds raised would go to help our heroes.
We found Just Donated kept 90 percent of the money.
“It may seem that people are being misled, that’s the furthest thing that I want to see,” Campbell said last June.
That’s exactly what we saw, and apparently the Attorney General did too.
“Because of people like you that identify when activity like this takes place, we’re able to act swiftly and take steps to shutting it down,” Attorney General Ashley Moody said.
The Attorney General says she is asking her counterpart in California to go after Just Donate to recover the millions it raised in the name of this phony charity called VetMade.
Campbell did not respond to our request for a comment for this report.
While the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance agreement with the Attorney General states he admits to no wrongdoing, it also states he engaged in potentially unfair and deceptive business practices, including making false and misleading claims in soliciting donations.
If you know of something that should be investigated, call our 8 On Your Side Helpline at 1-800-338-0808. Contact Steve Andrews at firstname.lastname@example.org.