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'Sham' charities raised $13 million for homeless vets, pocketed 90% of donations

Falls Church-based groups shut down following an investigation by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring.

NORFOLK, Va. — From a headquarters in the Northern Virginia town of Falls Church, organizations called Center for American Homeless Veterans, Inc, and Circle of Friends for American Veterans -- both, run by retired Army Major Brian Arthur Hampton dating back to 1993 -- misused more than $13 million they raised across the country, supposedly to help the nation's 37,000+ homeless veterans.

Hired telemarketers in Nevada and Arizona exploited unsuspecting citizens' goodwill by promising that donations would provide education, food and shelter to homeless veterans. Instead, a majority of the money -- over 90 percent -- went to paying the salaries of the telemarketers, staff, and Hampton himself. Only $4,000 is believed to have ever gotten to veterans.

"We've been investigating it for some time now and found that almost none of the money they were raising was going to what they said it was going to go for," said  Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who called the operation a "sham" and their practices "deceptive."

He reached a settlement this week that shuts down the organizations, permanently bars Hampton from soliciting charitable causes, and recovers $100,000 to be distributed to three legitimate homeless veterans charities.

"We want to send a clear message to people who would take advantage of people's generosity: Virginia is the last place you want to come because we are watching," said Herring.

The Virginia organizations received "F's" from the nonprofit watchdog group CharityWatch, based upon the groups' financial transparency and spending habits.

As far back as 2017, the Better Business Bureau urged consumers to "exercise caution" when deciding whether to contribute money to the organizations, citing what the BBB "sees as unusually high fundraising costs and potentially misleading mailers to prospective donors."

In addition to Virginia, the scheme is known to have also extended into Missouri, Illinois, and New York, according to media reports in those states.

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