Did the anonymous owner of Radionewz.net kidnap HaLeigh Cummings?

by Timothy Charles Holmseth

Could the identity of an x-rated website’s anonymous owner, and  the person that kidnapped HaLeigh Cummings be one in the same?

A growing number of independent researchers believe an  explosive reality lies behind the true identity of a person that owns and  operates a website called www.radionewz.net.

The increasing suspicions of the public abruptly changed from ‘possibility’ to  likely ‘reality’ after Edward Boyle, a biofuels engineer from Hollywood, Florida  began openly discussing the facts behind an online feud that erupted in the  comment section of the website.

The relatively brief feud in early April of 2013 was not  your ordinary discussion – not by a long shot.

Boyle said he originally went to the website after learning  a photograph of his sister, Maria Burgun, had been published with insults and  vile sexual commentary.

What astonished researchers was not only did Boyle know the  person that attacked his sister on the website – he clearly knew the person very  well and the relationship was tumultuous if not hateful.

Boyle

And then – as the old saying goes – the devil is in the  details. 

Boyle’s sister, Maria Burgun, is a millionaire from Plantation that operates  a very successful business with her husband, John Burgun.

The sleazy outhouse Radionewz.net is the last place you  would typically expect to find an eloquent and refined woman such as Maria  Burgun being slimed. But she is not your average South   Florida socialite.

Maria Burgun said she sat down with the FBI  and turned over  information she believes could lead to the missing child.

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H A L E I G H   John and Maria Burgun

She is a witness in the federal investigation of matters  involving the disappearance of the missing child HaLeigh Cummings.

In 2012, Maria Burgun began interacting with law enforcement  after an anonymous caller attempted to extort a very large amount of money from  her – suggesting she might be taken on a trip to the Hoover Dam if she did not  cooperate. She received the bizarre call while out for supper with her family  and immediately called the Plantation Police Department.

The police record is there for all to see.

For reasons mostly known to Maria Burgun and the feds – the  facts surrounding the extortion attempt ultimately resulted in her sitting down  with the FBI to discuss the disappearance of HaLeigh Cummings.

Edward Boyle was also contacted by the police regarding the  extortion attempt. He told police he too had received a threatening telephone  call. He said the caller told him it would take “a thousand stitches” to put  his face back together if he didn’t come up with the money.

A short time later, the yard-man at Boyle’s plant was  non-fatally shot from behind in the dark. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office  (BCSO) investigated the attempted homicide but no arrests were made. The FBI  also visited Boyle at his plant.

It’s all there in the police records for the public to see.

Boyle believed he knew who was behind the shooting and  recalled telling the FBI agent the guilty parties were involved with that  “little girl.” He was referring to HaLeigh Cummings. He said the special agent  responded, “We’re aware of it.”

The connection between Boyle’s biofuels plant and his  sister’s developing relationship with the FBI regarding HaLeigh Cummings takes  on a very significant meaning as one begins to read the hostile exchange that  took place on Radionewz.net in April.

The reader will immediately notice Boyle personally knows,  and has likely done business with the anonymous person he is exchanging jabs  with. The animosity appears to involve the biofuels business.

The conversation begins with what appears to be a taunt by  Boyle at the individual that published his sister’s photo.

“Hey Maria – remember, they’re jealous. Always have been.  This has made you strong. They don’t know what their up against. LMFAO. You  were right. You told me so. Soon the whole gang, even daddy, will know what  they have gotten themselves into. Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha. What a good  laugh we will have. Although I feel bad for their kids. Almost there. Around  the corner to victory.” Boyle wrote using his real name.

Boyle’s mention of sorrow for the children indicates he  personally knows the person he is taunting. His statement “always have been”  indicates they have known each other for some time.

Sixteen minutes later a response is posted by a person using  the name “Anonymous.” The speed at which the responding poster noticed they  were being taunted by Boyle cannot be ignored. At sixteen minutes, the person  would have had to be monitoring the website and perhaps receiving e-mail  notifications when comments are made on the Radionewz Blog.  

The responder is not happy.

“Fucking loser….how’s your plant Ed? Oh shit…you don’t know  cause you’re not allowed on the property, are ya bud? How’s it feel to get  kicked the fuck out of your own business, huh, you fat piece of shit? Go smoke  some more dope and pop some pills with your stripper kid, fat ass. How’s your  Wife’s job at Target, you unemployed pill popper?         You are a L-O-S-E-R. Get lost, fat fuck,” Anonymous said.

Two minutes later a poster logged on as ‘Chicago Mob’ and  wrote: “Edward Boyle got evicted from his own business.”

At this point, you now have a supposed third party, within a  mere two minutes of the first response, joining in on the subject of Boyle’s  biofuels plant.

It is clear the poster(s) talking to Boyle profess to know  details about his life, and are aware of the fact he is involved in a contract  dispute regarding his business.

Three minutes later a poster using the name Sal Ramos logs  on and writes: “Who were the four guys looking for you outside your plant, one  with a gun??? Thanks to me….”

This poster, Sal Ramos, constitutes party number four –  joining in four minutes after party three and talking about Boyle.

The comment by Sal Ramos involving men stalking someone with  a gun is eerily reminiscent of the attempted homicide in 2012 investigated by  the BCSO. The writer appears to be openly admitting, and even bragging, they  sent hit-men to Boyle’s plant (this is something that should be looked into by  law enforcement considering the attempted homicide at the same address).  

One minute later Sal Ramos says, “The guys from Bost[on]  still think your shady….just sayin…”

It is obvious a conversation between Boyle and only one  other person is taking place; the other party is simply logging in under various  names.

Two minutes later a poster logs in as SAL and says, “$30,000  from Mike — $67,000 from Craig — $80,000 from the Boston loan sharks??? That’s $177,000 since  November Fat A$$. Get a job loser. Your pill habits up to 15-20 a day now  buddy. No wonder.”

The poster Sal Ramos professes to know details of Boyle’s  finances to the tune of $177,000.

Boyle explained during interviews “Craig” is a man named  Craig Goldstein. He said he has done some business with Goldstein.

Sixteen minutes later Boyle responds. “Meeting them  tomorrow. Thanks NE and CG. We’ll see things happen for a reason Mikey. Ha Ha  Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha.”

Nine minutes later Boyle continues to talk to the person he  has begun calling “Mikey.” He says, “Waiting for your lawsuit there Mikey ol’  boy. Soon enough buddy. Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha.”

The familiarity between the posters is clear. For instance,  Boyle says, “…you’re done soon and so is daddy.”

At one point Boyle refers to “Thompson and the wife.” Boyle  stated during interviews Thompson is a man named Brian Thompson.

Four minutes later Boyle provides a detail regarding what he  believes are the activities of Mikey. He says, “How’s the pumping going. Not  too good. Ha.”

“Ol sis has your number. No escape now,” Boyle taunts.

The contentious debate fizzles and then continues bright and  early the next morning. “The Boston  loan sharks as you call them, CG will be happy doing business while you’re up duct  taping together what’s left,” Boyle says.

As the heated argument on Radionewz.net died out, the  activity and emotion did not. In fact, the most explosive event to take place was  about to occur.

Boyle received a voice message on his answering machine.

According to Boyle, he turned a copy of the recording over  to Douglas H. Reynolds, attorney, Tripp-Scott Law Firm, Fort Lauderdale. Reynolds is the attorney  that represents John and Maria Burgun in their legal matters.

Boyle said Attorney Reynolds was excited to obtain a copy of  the recording. Boyle also said Reynolds recognized the voice on the recording. Boyle  said Reynold’s knows who the person is.

When Boyle’s comments were published in previous articles, Attorney  Reynolds contacted me and stated Boyle’s assertions were “not correct” and  “inaccurate” but did not elaborate.

Reynold’s was asked specifically, but would not confirm or  deny receiving the answering machine message.

Boyle was contacted again and he maintained his statements  were true. He said Reynolds had not contacted him to protest his statements to  the media. Boyle said he believed Reynolds was protecting himself and going  through the “motions.”

Boyle said the recording he gave Reynolds will prove the  identity of the person that posted his sister’s photograph on Radionewz.net.

Researchers are now concerned.  

Why?

Because.

A careful study of the Radionewz Blog over the past several  years has revealed it contains a list of witnesses in the HaLeigh Cummings  disappearance. A list of specific individuals – permanently slated for regular  character assassination, defamation, and harassment on the website.

The website is a new-age gun – used to silence witnesses.

The names of the people being taken out comprise a hit-list  that is focused strictly on HaLeigh Cummings case witnesses and designed to  completely ruin their reputations.

Every witness is deemed mentally unstable.

Why does the publisher do that?   

Who is the owner of the website?

Why does the owner of Radionewz.net want to silence  witnesses in a missing child case?

Boyle hopes the answering machine message will break the  case wide open.

Seized property returned to author

Seized property returned to author

On December 14, 2012 four armed police officers wearing bullet proof vests stormed the home-office of Timothy Charles Holmseth with a Search and Seizure Warrant.

The volume of work product and personal property seized was incalculable because a very large hard drive that was 98% full was seized.

On April 26, 2013 all the property was returned by Order of the Court.

The evidence stickers on the bags and wrappers read Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, St. Paul, Minnesota.

No illegal files or contraband was found in any of the work product, phones, discs, or computer drives. No charges were filed and all legal aggression suddenly stopped.

Florida law firm disagrees with Boyle

On April 21  we reported Edward Boyle, the brother of Maria Burgun, became aware his sister’s  lawyer, Douglas Reynolds, Tripp-Scott law firm, was planning to issue a letter  to the owner of http://www.radionewz.net – a legal  first step in a developing situation.             

Boyle

Burgun is an  emerging figure in the HaLeigh Cummings investigation that sat down with the  FBI and provided information.

Attorney Reynolds  contacted us and said Boyle’s statements are “not correct” – but did not elaborate.

Boyle was  contacted for comment and he re-iterated that everything he said was true.  

The online event  that caused the stir was triggered by a photograph of Burgun that was published  by http://www.radionewz.net, a vicious online argument  that ensued, and a message left on Boyle’s answering machine.

Boyle said Reynolds  requested a copy of the message and he in fact turned it over.

Boyle said  there is a high volume of sensitive legal activity occurring at this time, and  suggested Reynolds is simply going through “the motions.”

Boyle said big things are going on involving many differnt figures, and people are getting “scared.”

Florida law firm to pursue website

by Timothy Charles Holmseth

The owner, administrator, and contributing associates of the  anonymously operated cyber-stalker website http://www.radionewz.net may soon be  identified.

Edward Boyle, a South Florida  biofuels engineer, is a witness to several pending legal issues involving his  sister and brother-in-law, John and Maria Burgun.

According to Boyle, the Fort Lauderdale based law office of Tripp-Scott  is set to contact the Site’s owner and acquire his/her insurance information –  the first legal step required.

Edward Boyle

The legal action was sparked by an online attack against an  entire family, and extended family, followed up by a telephone message, which  Boyle received on his answering machine. “Doug Reynolds is very interested in  that message,” Boyle said.

 

The recent online attack occurred amongst a cluster of legal  activity involving Burgun and Boyle.

Boyle said the caller on the answering machine is known to Attorney  Reynolds, and that Reynolds pondered if the caller owned http://www.radionewz.net.

Maria Burgun has been criminally targeted many times. She met with the FBI in South   Florida in 2012 after receiving a death threat over the telephone.  She subsequently provided the FBI information regarding the disappearance of the  missing child HaLeigh Cummings.

Boyle said he recently spoke with William Staubs, a South Florida bail bondsman, best known for his ill-fated  involvement in the HaLeigh Cummings missing child case. Boyle said he learned  Attorney Doug Roberts, another Fort Lauderdale attorney, is also assessing the website for a subpoena in a pending  lawsuit filed by Staubs against another Party associated to the missing child  case.

The website’s legal issues appear to include on-line visits from  the FBI and DHS. The publisher(s) appear fascinated with topics involving  missing children and rape. Publishers on the Site reportedly cyber-stalked and  brutally harassed a minor child from Steubenville,   Ohio. The stalkers accused the  minor of being a rapist.

The mindset and mental health of the website’s authors  concern many, as it purports to be a staunch advocate for rape victims; a  sentiment many find disingenuous; and possibly a dark fantasy.

On one occasion the Site published a video that showcased a  monkey raping a smaller animal – and then attributed names of real people to  the animals.

Concerns increase regarding sexual fascination of cyber-stalkers operating the website radionewz. The Site places a strong focus on kidnapping and rape.

Amber Alert pimp

Amber Alert pimp

On March 11, 2009 a Web troll and Amber Alert pimp named Art Harris published an article entitled “HaLeigh Cummings’ mom wants custody!”

The lede (first sentence) read:

‘In what could set a legal precedent for missing children, The Bald Truth has learned exclusively that the mother of five year old Haleigh Cummings aims to fight for legal custody of a daughter abducted a month ago from her father’s home while he was at work and his 17 year old girlfriend slept nearby.’

‘In what could set a legal precedent…’

For those of you not familiar with Associated Press writing style and rules, I will explain the significance of the lede (the first sentence). It is the most important line in the entire body of writing and should present the message in its most basic form.

The litmus test of a good lede is to assess it, and be sure, that if the reader only reads the lede, and no more, they would still have received the intended information and mesage in its entirety.

Look at it again – ‘In what could set a legal precedent…’

Interesting priorities.

So what came in second to setting legal precedent? The answer is – ‘sympathy.’

On March 11, 2009 the sleazy Harris was announcing that history might be made.

Then…

Within a few days, a website accepting donations featuring the plight of little HaLeigh would be erected. The website would feature a photograph that had been manufactured using photo editing equipment to create the fals appearance Crystal Sheffield posed lovingly with HaLeigh.

In the article, Harris wrote:

‘[Crystal Sheffield] has postponed her plans to marry an electrician named Chad [Griffis], but will keep paying for the wedding dress she has on layaway.

“With Haleigh missing, getting married is the last thing on my mind. I can’t sleep. I lay down at night, but I don’t sleep. I try to rest, but I can’t. It’s bad when your baby is gone.”’

SOURCE ARTICLE @ http://www.artharris.com/2009/03/11/haleigh-mom-wants-custody/

Oh…isn’t that special? Her baby is missing, she can’t sleep and she’s putting off her wedding?

The photo shown above reveals the truth about Crystal Sheffield’s so-called engagement and relationship with Chad Griffis. Sheffield is holding hands with Jeremiah Regan – he is the self-proclaimed ‘events planner’ who claims he didn’t know Sheffield until her baby vanished and felt compelled to help out when he saw the story in the news.

According to Wayanne Kruger, Sheffield’s advocate – the Regan men were liars. She said Jeremiah Regan and his father, John Regan, suspiciously appeared and wanted to help. John Regan told a host of different people he was an undercover FBI agent. He told Kruger he goes undercover as a pedophile to catch child perverts.

But the truth is yet a little deeper than that.

Kruger told me Sheffield would bawl and wail uncontrollably when Jeremiah Regan would leave her for short periods (Kruger said Sheffield would not cry like that about her missing daughter).

Kruger told me that Sheffield and Jeremiah Regan would kiss and hug and heavily pet each other obnoxiously in public, and to the point they had to be pulled apart, because they were disrupting other peoples schedule with whom Jeremiah Regan was car-sharing.

Harris mentions Kruger in his article:

‘Victim’s advocate Wayanne Kruger, an author who’s daughter pressed charges against a godfather who’d molested her as a child, flew in from California to volunteer, and donated proceeds from a book signing to help Crystal stay afloat.’

Stay afloat, eh?

According to Kruger, the book sale money she gave Sheffield was squandered on cell phone minutes and drugs. Kruger said Sheffield would linger around the table where she was signing books, and as soon as a sale was made, Sheffield would grab the cash and take off with it.

The scale of pre-meditated deception required to create Harris’ article is so extensive it is beyond the scope of this piece. It is rivaled only by the scale of pre-mediated deception required to stage the kidnapping of HaLeigh Cummings.

Everything is funny until you exploit a child

by Timothy Charles Holmseth

Many have seen Anderson Cooper’s nose seemingly disappear  for a moment during an interview with yet another ‘Sandy Hook parent’ of  Newtown fame –  the apparent result of the green screen technology they were using.

No big secret…CNN has a history of producing fake news using production sets.

During the 1990’s the network was caught red-handed  after a staffer leaked footage the public was never supposed to see. The  footage showcased how these little clowns used sound effects to emulate rockets  and explosions – at one point they frantically pulled on gas-masks.

While one views the antics of these little fools, it is hard to not sense they they enjoy the idea they are fooling people. The very thought processes  behind such behavior is consistent with criminal thinking.

Now of course – if the foolishness remained limited to using  props for scenery, bogus sound effects, and faking geographic location to look  like an efficient news network, that would be one thing – but of course, it’s  always just a matter of time before some predator has to exploit a child.

And that brings us to a creepy little goblin named Art  Harris.

Art Harris was once employed by CNN but was reportedly fired  after being kicked out of Iraq  for irresponsibly jeopardizing the lives of American troops. Apparently the  disgust of the American military toward Harris was enough to prompt a rare  event of good decision making at CNN.

So – did he learn his lesson?

Apparently not – because in 2009 he decided to get cute  again – this time with a little girl named HaLeigh Ann-Marie Cummings.

Apparently you can get Art Harris out of CNN – but you can’t  CNN out of Art Harris.

I’ll explain why.

HaLeigh Cummings, 5, was reported missing on February 10, 2009.  Her father, Ronald Cummings had sole physical custody of HaLeigh and her little  brother.

The police report described the mysterious disappearance as  ‘domestically involved’ and law enforcement told the media it was “no stranger  abduction.”

Custody and in-fighting had been a problem for the family in  the past; local law enforcement had a pretty good idea about what was going on.

But of course – out of all the family abductions and custody  grabs that occur around the United States on a regular basis, Art Harris’  friend, Nancy Grace at HLN (CNN associate) focused on the little girl from  Satsuma, Florida.

For a month the mystery raged – and then…

On March 11, 2009 a story entitled “HaLeigh Cummings’ mom  wants custody!” was published by Art Harris on his website.

First of all – you will search the world over – but you will  never in a million years find a reputable journalist or reporter that publishes  a headline that says something like that.

Which makes sense, because…

Harris was the media consultant for Crystal Sheffield, HaLeigh’s mother. 

He wasn’t a reporter anymore than Nancy Grace is a news  program.

It’s almost surprising the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office  didn’t take this whispering little ghoul in for questioning the moment he  started hanging around the case. He didn’t belong in Satsuma anymore than he  did in Iraq  when he got his ass kicked out of a jeep by a pissed of military leader.

Providing private publishing services for a missing child’s  mother easily pushed him out from underneath the safe umbrella of First  Amendment protections.

One month after HaLeigh Cummings is reported missing – Art  Harris emerges out of nowhere to announce the mother of the kidnapped child  wants custody (of her missing child). 

And of course – why would a Judge know which household to  place the child in anyway – no, America  needs Art Harris to help us understand the best interest of a child.

A cursory examination of Crystal Sheffield is all that is  required to understand why she did not have physical custody of her two  children in the first place.

  • Habitual       drug user / addict
  • Did       not know what time her daughter HaLeigh got out of school
  • Neglected       to take HaLeigh, who suffers from Turner’s syndrome, to over a dozen       consecutive doctor visits
  • Rolled       over and went back to sleep when she the received the telephone call       HaLeigh was missing
  • Used       Photoshop to create the appearance she posed with her daughter because she       had no such photos     

So – what does the child protection expert Art Harris do  when he first arrives in Satsuma, Florida  in March of 2009?

He rendezvous with a South Florida  bail bondman, William Staubs – a.k.a. ‘Cobra the Bounty Hunter’ – – – Staubs  pays Harris $4,700 in cash (which Staubs says he borrowed from a reformed drug  dealer).

Harris now begins to follow Staubs around – films him and  write about the kidnapping case. Before it is all over, Staubs will be arrested  for felony false imprisonment – but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Now – who does Cobra Staubs work for? Why is he there  anyway?

Well – he, works for Crystal Sheffield, too. 

However, when the mainstream media pinned Staubs down about  who his client was, he told them he was working for Rev. Richard Grund.

Rev. Grund is an online minister – former Satan worshipper  turned Christian (that is what he told me) that battles demons in the  supernatural realm – he hails from the Orlando  area.

Okay – fair enough…I guess…

So – you have Staubs and Harris in a contractual  relationship involving thousands of dollars – is there any relevance to Staubs  claiming he is working for Grund?

Yes.

Both Grund and Staubs have been working closely with Crystal  Sheffield’s victim’s advocate, Wayanne Kruger.

Kruger produced (to me) email communications between herself  and (1) Grund, (2) Staubs, (3) Harris, and many others.

They were all working together – coordinating – Grund  actually appeared to be in charge – giving marching orders.

In one email, Rev. Grund tells Kruger that Cobra his on his  way and she is supposed to wait for him. Grund then asks Kruger where she is  going to “hide” them.

Did you catch that folks?

Yeppers!

Now…

There are a couple of men Kruger has been spending time  with. They are a father and son named John and Jeremiah Regan from local Hastings, Florida.

Kruger said John Regan bragged about knowing the location of  an “intake house” for young prostitutes. She said he told her the local police  and local leaders were all running a sex trafficking operation.

Kruger said she tried to go to the police to tell them what  she knew about HaLeigh, but was stopped by the Regans. She said John Regan  dressed as a pastor and claimed he worked undercover for the FBI as a pedophile  to catch other pedophiles. He told her the FBI already had HaLeigh but wanted  it kept secret for the time being.

Do John and Jeremiah Regan know the rest of the gang?

Oh yes.

A photo shows Crystal Sheffield with Kruger and the Regans. Sheffield and Jeremiah Regan are intimately holding  hands.

Staubs told me John Regan was a preacher and undercover  agent connected to the Jacksonville FBI (I somehow doubt the FBI is going to  confirm that).

Rev. Grund told me John Regan bragged that he used a  chaplain’s badge to trick a person into thinking he was a cop.

Mainstream news reports capture Jeremiah Regan and Art  Harris together as they track down and harass a local accused pedophile they  ‘suspect’ may have took HaLeigh.

Daniel Snodgrass, Joseph Overstreet, Misty Croslin, Ronald Cummings, were among the list of individuals targeted for televised ‘suspicion’ brought to you courtsey of Art Harris and Nancy Grace.

Yep – Art Harris is hot on the case, running around with the  son of the Undercover Pervert – fighting crime and filming Cobra the Bounty Hunter.

I could literally go on for pages upon pages with the  behavior and antics of the group that was trying to help ‘HaLeigh Cummings mom  get custody.’

I won’t – but let me share how bad this gets.

Wayanne Kruger said she was worried that Rev. Grund may have  accidentally killed HaLeigh during an exorcism. She said Rev. Grund didn’t  believe HaLeigh was 100 percent human because she had no reproductive abilities  as a result of her Turner’s syndrome. Kruger said Rev. Grund believed HaLeigh  may have a demon in her.

Kruger told me she hoped they didn’t accidentally kill  HaLeigh. She expressed she wanted to protect HaLeigh, but feared the little  girl may have been trafficked into something run by pedophiles and weirdoes and  baby-brokers.

You see – CNN – everything is freakin’ funny until you  exploit a child.

The Photoshopped Picture

The Photoshopped Picture

Shortly after HaLeigh Cummings mysteriously vanished, a website was published, which solicited donations. Scrolling amongst the photos was a photoshopped picture that created the false appearance Crystal Sheffield posed lovingly with her children. I (Timothy Charles Holmseth) obtained the original emails that were sent the web developer with the photo attached. It had passed through the email account of Donna Wagoner, Xentel, Inc. Wagoner was working on Crystal Sheffield’s team. Wagoner called the police on me when I asked her a question about the photo. The FBI later visited Wagoner’s place of employment. Here is the truth about Xentel:

State Sues Professional Fundraiser — Xentel, Inc.

Consumer fraud suit alleges telemarketers trick Iowans into believing the callers are fire fighters, that donations will support local fire fighters, and that most of donated money helps fire fighters.

DES MOINES. Attorney General Tom Miller filed a consumer fraud lawsuit today alleging that a Florida-based professional fundraiser company uses misleading telemarketing pitches designed to exploit the public’s support for fire fighters in order to line its own pockets.

“Our suit alleges that Xentel telemarketers trick Iowans into believing that the callers are themselves fire fighters, when they are not,” Miller said. “We allege they trick Iowans into believing that donations will support local fire fighters, when that is not the case. And we allege they trick Iowans into believing that most or all of the money donated goes to help fire fighters, when that is not the case.”

“The truth is that the callers are professional telemarketers, not fire fighters,” Miller said. “Little or no support typically goes to a donor’s local fire department, and about 75% of the money donated is kept by Xentel and never supports any fire fighters.”

Xentel, Inc., has headquarters in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The company solicits donations from Iowans under a contract between Xentel and the Iowa Professional Fire Fighters Association. The Consumer Protection Division filed the lawsuit today in Polk County District Court. The suit asks the court to prohibit the alleged deceptive and misleading practices, order restitution, and assess civil penalties up to $40,000 for each violation of the Iowa Consumer Fraud Act.

Background:

The suit states that Xentel solicits charitable donations in the name of the Iowa Professional Fire Fighters Association (IPFF), pays IPFF $12,000 monthly, and keeps all donations over that amount. (IPFF is not named a defendant in the lawsuit.) Financial disclosure forms show that Xentel collected more than $591,811 in 2002 in donations on behalf of IPFF, and thus Xentel received $447,811, or 76% of the money donated by Iowans.

Rick Roe, Chief of the Clive Fire Department in suburban Des Moines, and head of the Polk County Fire Chiefs’ Association, appeared with Miller at a news conference announcing the suit. Roe himself received a Xentel/IPFF fundraising call in which the telemarketer falsely claimed that donated funds would go to the local fire department. Other chiefs and individuals reported similar calls.

The suit also cites evidence gathered when Xentel telemarketers called an “undercover line” that rings into the state Consumer Protection Division. (The line originated when an elderly West Des Moines woman changed her phone number to protect her from fraudulent telemarketing calls – and her former phone number was then assigned to the Consumer Protection Division.)

Three different Xentel telemarketers made calls to the line since last fall. “All three of the taped telemarketers sought to create the misleading impression that the call was actually placed by fire fighters,” the suit alleges.

All three callers “sought to create the impression that donations would directly benefit local fire fighters in West Des Moines” (the supposed location of the woman.) In fact, neither the West Des Moines Fire Department nor any individual WDM fire fighters are members of IPFF.

And “all three callers sought to create the false impression that most or all of the money donated went to fire fighters or programs supporting fire fighters,” the suit says.

Miller said: “In sum, we allege that Xentel uses carefully crafted deceptions and the justifiably positive public image of fire fighters to divert charitable dollars to its own benefit – dollars that might otherwise go to far more worthy recipients, including local fire departments.”

The suit also asks the court to assess additional civil penalties up to $5,000 each for violations committed against older Iowans, and additional penalties for alleged intentional violations of a consumer fraud injunction entered in Polk County District Court against the Gehl Group, Inc. in 1997. That injunction, part of a 1997 consent judgment signed by Joseph E. Gehl for the Gehl Group, prohibited that company and its successors from misrepresenting how proceeds would be used or the caller’s affiliation. Xentel acquired the Gehl Group in 1999, and Joseph Gehl has served as Xentel’s president.

“Donor Beware!” Tips for making the most of your donations:

Miller encouraged Iowans to continue to give generously to charities of all kinds – but to protect the value of their donations by following tips such as giving to reputable local charities, asking questions about how donations will be used, asking telephone solicitors to send information in writing, and not giving credit card or checking account numbers over the phone. For more information see the “Consumer Advisory” bulletin titled “Donor Beware!” at http://www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.org (click on “Protecting Consumers” and “consumer advisories.”)