New Castle News

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September 26, 2013

Telemarketing firm faces state lawsuit

NEW CASTLE — The Pennsylvania attorney general’s office has filed a lawsuit against a Boardman, Ohio, telemarketing firm.

The legal action targets Encore Music Productions, its agents and the fraternal organizations on whose behalf it solicited charitable donations for firefighter organizations.

The Ohio attorney general’s office filed a similar lawsuit against Encore and others.

“Encore purposefully hired and trained telemarketers to scam Pennsylvanians who believed they were supporting local firefighters,” Attorney General Kathleen Kane alleged.

Since 2006, Encore solicited donations for four organizations in Pennsylvania and more than 30 organizations in Ohio by selling tickets and business advertisements for local concerts.

An initial investigation allegedly found that Encore and its agents, Phil’s Productions and MVP 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 did.

•Training telemarketers to falsely identify themselves as volunteers or firefighters.

•Failing to identify themselves as professional solicitors.

•Hiring more than 13 recently convicted felons as telemarketers in violation of Pennsylvania law.

•Failing to properly register with the Pennsylvania Department of State’s Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations.

The five-count civil lawsuit, filed in Commonwealth Court, alleges violations of Pennsylvania’s Solicitation of Funds for Charitable Purposes Act for deceptive acts and practices. Kane is seeking an order that includes shutting down the enterprise and redistributing its assets to legitimate charities.

The Pennsylvania suit names as defendants: Encore Music Productions of Boardman, Phil’s Productions of Youngstown, Joseph Chiovitti of Youngstown, Philip Howells of Youngstown, MVP Productions of Cambridge and Martin Vernello of East Liverpool.

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