“Can the police count on your support?” asks the voice on the other end of the phone. Such is the luring tactic set by one telemarketer when it comes to soliciting money supposedly earmarked to help the families of fallen law enforcement members. But does most of that money go to the advertised beneficiaries?

The answer is no.

Scam phone calls seeking monetary donations have been in the news for years and even organizations that solicit contributions legally may have gotten people to give money using misleading claims. One characteristic that makes residents in the north country especially vulnerable is the fact that there is a large number of law enforcement supporters, and all the “Back the Blue” banners, vehicle decals and bumper stickers throughout the region are a telltale sign.

One organization behind an ongoing fundraising campaign is the National Police and Troopers Association (NPTA), which is operated under the umbrella of the International Union of Police Associations (IUPA) – both organizations are based in Sarasota, Florida. Although their solicitations are legal under the law, their ethics are questionable at best, and only a tiny fraction is donated to charitable organizations. Those misleading solicitations are a national scourge that slips through a loophole and not categorized as a scam operation; however, there are some law enforcement agencies across the nation that have classified NPTA’s campaign as such.

The Hancock County Sheriff’s Department in Maine posted a “Scam Alert” warning that reads: “There have been reports of someone calling requesting donations for the National Police and Troopers Association. We have nothing to do with this organization and they do not support us. Please be cautious if you decide to donate to them.”

Agency receives negative feedback

A screen shot of the “Scam Alert” issued by the Sioux City, Iowa police department that mentions the National Police and Troopers Association. Richard Rosentreter/Malone Telegram

In Sioux City, Iowa, their social media post warns, “The SCPD has recently become aware of a questionable charity organization called the National Police and Trooper Association. The legitimacy of the ‘NPTA’ cannot be verified, however, we know that it does not help law enforcement locally.”

There’s an old adage: “If it quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”

The calls

The NPTA has been soliciting donations via phone, and recently unknowingly contacted a staff member of the Malone Telegram. The calls came from the same phone number (929-279-5975) and same voice each time. The male caller with a deep “official-type” voice, requests a donation to help families of law enforcement members.

The caller, who only identified himself as “John,” first mentions he is calling for the NPTA and gives a promising prospectus of what the donation is used for: “Your support will go to representing the needs of law enforcement officers, whether that be for better equipment, staff or fairway. We also believe the family of fallen officers should receive assistance,” he says, and refers to the overarching control group. “We are a special project of the International Union of Police Associations.”

This reporter received four phone calls from John in the course of more than three months, thus sparking an ongoing investigative report by the Telegram. During his third call, John, who admitted he was not a member of law enforcement and was paid for his telemarketing duties, was pressed for more details about the NBTA and IUPA. He became more forceful as the call continued, and raising his tone, he asked, “Can we count on your support or not?” The Telegram pressed on for information about the organizations he was soliciting for, but he only replied with “Have a nice day,” and hung up.

The Telegram tried to call the number back, and was greeted with the following message and prompts: “Thank you for calling the fundraising center. We are unable to take your call at this time. For more options press nine.” When that extension is pressed, callers are given these two options: “To not make a donation, press one. To end this call, press two.” After a delay, the message says, “Thank you, have a nice day,” which ends the call.

Would a legitimate operation have such an inappropriate message prompt? Are the NPTA and IUPA (each are connected with the powerful AFL-CIO Union) legitimate charitable organizations? The Telegram started to investigate, and a basic path was to follow the money.

Digging deeper to follow the money

The IUPA and its “special project” NPTA generates a lot of cash, and even a charitable organization must file with the Internal Revenue Service, and in this case, a form 990 is filed, and those are public record. The Telegram acquired those forms (from 2017 to 2019) to help form a clear picture of how much money is raised by the NPTA and where the money goes; the numbers speak for themselves.

In 2017 more than $16 million was raised from contributions and only $70,000 went to charities while $14 million went to “professional fundraising services,” according to the official government document. The “charity” portion was distributed as follows: 10 individuals split a total of $25,000 ($2,500 each) in scholarships for students pursuing advanced degrees in law enforcement and more than $45,000 was listed as given as grants and other assistance, with only two listed, $10,000 to a Florida-based organization that helps handicapped children and a $10,000 to a golf sponsorship for the Law Enforcement Officers Relief Fund, which is affiliated with the IUPA – meaning they “donated” 10K to themselves. There is no mention of specific monies spent to aid the families of fallen officers in the section of the 990 that the IUPA could list such expenditures.

Also, according to the 990 form the organization submitted to the IRS, Hugh Cameron, the executive vice president and secretary treasurer worked an average of one hour per week and was compensated nearly $134,000 for the year. Cameron reviewed and approved the 990 form prior to its being submitted to the IRS. The forms also disclose that IUPA president Samuel A. Cabral, whose name also appears as the principal officer on the IRS document, was given an annual salary of about $200,000 a year.

In 2018, approximately $8 million was raised with nearly $3 million going toward “professional fundraising services” and only $77,000 went to charitable causes and of that, $27,500 was distributed to 11 students for scholarships, again $2,500 per student. $8,250 was given for the purpose of a sponsorship and $5,000 was given to “support fundraising” and $15,000 was given as a sponsorship to the Suncoast Foundation for the Handicapped, which although a good cause, is not affiliated with any law enforcement-related organization, according to its website. Again, there is no mention of specific monies spent to aid the families of fallen officers in the 990 section.

In 2019, about $8.5 million was raised and nearly $7.5 million went to “professional fundraising services” and this time just $32,000 was given to charitable causes, according to the 990 form. It is also the only time one of the forms over the three-year period specifically mention one of the causes the NPTA makes in its donation pitch and within New York state as $5,000 was given to the NYS Investigators Association general fund for the “loss of a member.” Also, $15,000 was split by six scholarship recipients.

Although the NPTA pitches it helps police and troopers, there was no indication on its 990 that any monies were distributed in New York state.

The Telegram has been working to obtain more recent 990 forms, which must become available to the public; however, since COVID hit, the agency says it has fallen behind on processing such documents for public inspection.

Investigative reports

As the Telegram dug a deeper, it was found that the NPTA and UIPA are not new to being under the microscope of outlets’ reports. The organizations were the subject of a report by investigative journalist Grant Bissell for “5 On Your Side,” a St. Louis-based KSDK broadcast news feature, and a story was written after someone complained.

In 2019 the Center for Public Integrity, a watchdog group whose mission is “to counter the corrosive effects of inequality by holding powerful interests accountable and equipping the public with knowledge to drive change,” published an extensive report into the shady practices of the NPTA and UIPA titled “They promise to help families of fallen officers. But they’re mostly paying telemarketers.” Co-authored by Sarah Kleiner, the report outlined some of the same facts found by the Telegram, but also gave greater insight into the fundraising machine.

“From roughly 2011 to March 2018, the union and the relief fund spent about $106.3 million, according to annual tax returns filed with the IRS,” the story reads. “About $82.3 million of that amount — 77 percent — paid for fundraising services.”

Kleiner’s report also delved into some of the telemarketing companies used by the IUPA — one even had its right to operate stricken in New York state.

“One of their many other fundraisers is New Jersey-based Outreach Calling, which has ties to beleaguered telemarketer Mark Gelvan,” the CPI story reads. “In 2004, state officials in New York banned Gelvan from fundraising in the state, in part because his solicitors impersonated police officers when they asked for donations.”

Contacted as part of this report, Kleiner told the Telegram she tried to contact IUPA officials for comment, including its president Cabral, to no avail. She also said she is shocked this sort of fundraising is still taking place. Both reports from Kleiner and Bissell provided a solid start for the Telegram’s investigation.

Although raising millions of dollars for a cause and not spending most of it for the stated causes is not in itself a crime, some of the tactics used by overzealous telemarketers might be. Telemarketing firms (a means used by the NPTA) are not above the law when it comes to deceptive or fraudulent practices and there has been an example of a firm being fined in such cases.

The government agency that polices those cases is the Federal Trade Commission, which “works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them,” according to its website.

In 2010, the FTC pursued a case involving operators of a telemarketing scheme and a subsequent court ruling forced the firm to pay a record $18.8 million and leave the charitable donation business to settle charges that they violated a FTC order by misleading consumers to believe they were donating directly to legitimate charities serving police, firefighters and veterans, when in fact only a small slice of the donations actually went to these charities, according to a FTC release at that time.

Scam calls seek donations for police

Samuel A. Cabral addresses the audience in August last year during the International Union of Police Associations 22nd International Convention held in Key West, Fla. He was reelected as the organization’s president. Photo from IUPA press release

The civil penalty against Civic Development Group, LLC; CDG Management LLC; and owners Scott Pasch and David Keezer is the largest ever in an FTC consumer protection case, the release said, adding that the penalty should deter others from violating Commission orders and from deceiving consumers and harming legitimate charities. The case was filed on the FTC’s behalf by the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Firms and individuals should not mislead the public when soliciting donations for charitable organizations,” Tony West, who was assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, said in the 2010 release. “The Justice Department will take action when a telemarketer violates an FTC order and takes unfair advantage of the generosity of donors by providing only a small fraction of donations for the charitable purposes for which they were intended.”

Better Business Bureau

The IUPA and NPTA have also garnered attention on the website of the Better Business Bureau, which gives the organization a failing grade. There are dozens of complaints about the methods of those groups and its consistent use of phone calls to solicit donations. The complaints range from those who just want the repeated solicitations to stop to others who experienced what they consider to be a rude or harassing call.

Commenters consistently expressed concerns about the persistent and aggressive tactics used, the refusal to stop calling when asked, the rudeness of the solicitors and a feeling of being harassed. (See sidebar)

One complaint gave solid advice to anyone who receives a phone call soliciting a donation.

“BEWARE! I received a call from them and initially sounded like a very good cause so asked them to send me something in the mail — I NEVER give a card over the phone, I research before giving any money. The caller kept trying to get me to pay over phone but finally agreed to mail me info. Received a couple follow-up calls asking me to give them the money I “promised.” It’s the same feeling when being pushed by a salesperson on commission. Simply Googling this charity produced plenty of negative feedback to warn consumers away from them. Do not give them any money! Instead find the legit charities for the same cause — and try to find and give to local charities first!”

Legit police organizations

There are thousands of citizens in the north country that support law enforcement members and their families – and there are a number of legitimate police benevolent associations that would appreciate the support of donations by the public. The Telegram researched several of them and each one located had one common denominator: Not one solicits donations via the telephone.

The Police Benevolent Association of New York State works to help members of the State University of New York (SUNY) Police, the New York State Environmental Conservation Police, the New York State Park Police, and the New York State Forest Rangers. The Telegram reached out to that organization, which does accept donations, but warns against trusting a phone call asking for them.

“Phone solicitations purporting to be on behalf of police benevolent associations are becoming more frequent and recipients are correct to treat them with suspicion. The PBA of New York State does not engage in phone solicitations and instead relies upon a donation portal on its official website. PBAs appreciate the generous support received from the community but want to ensure that nobody is the victim of fraud,” Jim McCartney, president of the PBA of New York State, told the Telegram, and had a warning for those who wish to help police organizations. “Before donating your hard-earned money, contact the PBA you wish to support and inquire as to the best way to donate.”

The New York State Troopers Police Benevolent Association is the labor union that represents active and retired New York State Troopers.

According to its acting board president, Charles W. Murphy, the troopers association does have a legitimate mechanism for donation.

“The NYSTPBA does not solicit individuals or call private individuals asking for donations. An affiliated organization, the NYST Benefit Fund Inc., contacts businesses and sells advertisements for inclusion in the PBA Trooper magazine, which is published twice a year,” he explained in a prepared statement, and that revenue is earmarked to “pay for member benefit items, including the funeral expenses of New York State Troopers killed in the line of duty.”

“The Signal 30 Benefit Fund is its charitable arm and funds go toward its primary mission of supporting NYS Troopers and their families as well as other critical needs in the law enforcement community,” Murphy wrote. “There are many organizations that solicit money so it is difficult to determine what is legitimate and what is fraudulent. Our Signal 30 Benefit Fund and the PBA Trooper magazine are legitimate and the funds are used to support the members of the New York State Troopers and their families and all those in the law enforcement community in extraordinary circumstances.”

Locally, the Malone Police Benevolent Association is an organization through the officers of the village of Malone Police Department, which also holds an annual bowling tournament to raise funds to buy gifts for children during the Christmas season, according to Malone’s village police Chief Christopher J. Premo. The contact person for those who wish to donate is Sgt. William Andre and for more information, call the MPD at (518) 483-2424.


As far as taking action on a political level, at least one local politician is on board with preventing phone scams in general, and Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay Lake, although not focusing on the specific case of NPTA or the IUPA, addressed the general rise in efforts to deceive north country residents.

“It is a shame that scammers are taking advantage of people who support law enforcement by asking them to donate to an organization that appears like a legitimate organization for police officers,” he said in a prepared statement. “I encourage everyone to be vigilant when receiving phone calls asking for money and personal information and not give out any of your personal information over the phone. Scams like this disproportionally impact older North Country residents and it is absolutely unacceptable that people are trying to take advantage of hardworking people. Please report any scam calls to the New York State Attorney General’s office as telemarketing fraud and block the number if possible. New York has passed bills in attempts to prevent telemarketing scams and I will continue to work with my colleagues to pass legislation to prevent more scams like these from happening and punish the ones found guilty of fraud.”

In the meantime, those who are contacted by a phone solicitor that seems sketchy, there are avenues to file a complaint, or just help document that the aforementioned organizations are targeting people in the north country.

If you believe you were contacted by the NPTA, listen to the message on this website: www.nomorobo.com/lookup/980-890-4669. If the voice sounds familiar, contact the Malone Telegram at news@mtelegram.com.

Those who wish to donate to a charity can get information on how much of a donation goes to the cause and how much is spent on overhead on websites such as Guidestar and Charity Watch .

To file a complaint with the FTC, visit its online Complaint Assistant or call 877-382-4357. The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,800 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad, according to its website.

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