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Boardman telemarketer closing in wake of lawsuit alleging deceptive solicitation for charity

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BOARDMAN TOWNSHIP, Ohio - A Boardman telemarketing firm suspected of deceptively soliciting donations for firefighter and police charities has reached a temporary agreement with the Ohio attorney general's office.

A lawyer representing Encore Music Productions says the owner plans to close the business and turn over to the charities, any checks made out to those organizations while the case plays out.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine filed the  lawsuit and was granted a temporary restraining order against Encore and its agents for allegedly deceiving donors while soliciting for firefighter and police charities.

According to the attorney general, since 2006, Encore solicited for more than 30 organizations in Ohio and four organizations in Pennsylvania by selling tickets and business advertisements for local concerts.

An investigation by DeWine's office found that Encore and its agents Phil's Productions LLC, MVP Productions, and Sharp Productions committed several violations including:

Lying to donors by saying 100 percent of donations went to a local charity, when only 10 to 33 percent went to charity.

Training telemarketers to falsely identify themselves as volunteers or firefighters.

Failing to identify themselves as professional solicitors.

Hiring more than 22 recently convicted felons as telemarketers in violation of Ohio law.

Failing to properly register with the Ohio Attorney General's Office.

Attorney General DeWine's 42-count civil lawsuit alleges 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 Attorney General seeks redistribution of its assets to legitimate charities, civil penalties, and other costs.

The lawsuit names 18 defendants:

  • Encore Music Productions Ltd. of Boardman
  • Phil's Productions LLC of Youngstown
  • Joseph Chiovitti of Boardman
  • Philip Howells of Youngstown
  • M.V.P. Productions LLC of Cambridge
  • Martin Vernello of East Liverpool
  • Kingsley Harris of Canfield
  • Jennifer Fairall of Campbell
  • Jessica Covington of Lowellville
  • Matthew Bocian of Youngstown
  • William Sharp and Waive Sharp, doing business as Sharp Productions, of Bucyrus
  • William Berrier of North Lima
  • Abby Makara of Youngstown
  • Laura Harper of CambridgeJaime Kegarise of Struthers
  • Esther Holmes of Youngstown
  • John Douglas of Youngstown.

The Pennsylvania Attorney General also filed a lawsuit against Encore Music.

 

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