Operators of a Jersey Shore-based charity to benefit the families of law enforcement officers killed or injured in the line of duty helped themselves instead, state authorities charged.
The National Police Relief Association and several of its board members went to dinner and to Walt Disney World on the dimes of donors while directly pocketing more than $200,000, Acting New Jersey Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck said.
Meanwhile, families of slain officers got a grand total of $14,000, he said.
“It’s disgusting that people would raise money for fallen and injured law enforcement officers only to misuse it on themselves," Bruck said in announcing a lawsuit filed against the organization by his office and the state Division of Consumer Affairs.
Bruck identified the primary culprits as NPRA Vice-President Frank John and his wife, NPRA Secretary Antoinette John, of Brick Township, and its deceased former president, Michael Davis.
The Ocean County-based National Police Relief Association reported nearly $2.5 million in contributions for 2014 through 2019, the attorney general said Friday.
The operators gave families a fraction of the money while diverting to their personal use roughly 15 times as much -- and more than double the amount targeted for any charitable purpose, Bruck said.
Frank John and Michael Davis previously worked for the New Jersey Department of Corrections, according to the complaint filed in Superior Court in Toms River.
Frank and his wife, both previously of Middlesex County, directly paid themselves "with no apparent connection to work performed for the charity" from 2014 to 2020, Bruck said.
They also tried to hide their misdeeds by not reporting the income for tax purposes, he said.
The co-conspirators spent nearly $25,000 on personal dining, automobile expenses and leisure travel for board members, the attorney general said.
"This amount includes over $7,000 for a weeklong Walt Disney World trip for multiple board members and their adult family members," he said.
Bruck said his staff obtained a temporary restraining order preventing the Johns, the Davis estate or the organization from, among other things:
- engaging in further solicitation of charitable contributions;
- disposing of assets in the charitable account;
- destroying financial records.
This was done, he said, "in order to protect prospective donors immediately, ensure the availability of National Police Relief Association’s remaining assets, and preserve relevant evidence of the organization’s activities.
“New Jersey’s police officers put their lives on the line for us,” Bruck said. "We will hold accountable this so-called charity and the people associated with it.”
Among other relief, the lawsuit seeks the return of money unlawfully obtained from members of the public, civil penalties, attorneys’ fees and costs, and an order ceasing the defendants’ "unlawful practices."
The state is also asking the court to dissolve National Police Relief Association, shut down its website and affiliated online accounts and permanently bar Frank and Antoinette John from registering or operating any charity in New Jersey, Bruck said.
Deputy Attorney General Erica Salerno of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section of the state Division of Law’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Practice Group is representing New Jersey in the case. Investigator Brian M. Penn of the Office of Consumer Protection within the state Division of Consumer Affairs conducted the investigation.
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