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Veterans charity to shut down amid allegations it was defrauding donors

By DAVE RESS | The Daily Press | Published: January 12, 2021

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (Tribune News Service) — A Florida-based group running a supposed charity for wounded veterans has settled allegations that it deceived donors and has agreed to close its doors, Attorney General Mark Herring said.

The settlement also bans Healing Heroes Network Inc.’s directors, Stacey Spiegel, Allan Spiegel, and Neal Spiegel, from running any entity soliciting charitable donations for five years. It includes a company, Hero Giveaways, LLC, that Stacey and Neal Spiegel set up to continue the operation after a multi-state investigation into the business started.

The Spiegels agreed to pay $95,000 to a charity that does help wounded vets.

Donors contributed millions of dollars in response to deceptive sweepstakes mailers and telephone solicitations, Herring said.

The group said it would use the money to help wounded veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan get medical care that the Veterans Administration did not readily provide. Its social media postings falsely claimed that it dedicated all the donations it received to wounded veterans, but investigations showed most of the money went to pay professional fundraisers, online advertising fees, T-shirts from a family member and salaries for Stacey Spiegel and her son, Neal.

Charity Watch said Healing Heroes Network spent 9% of its funds on charitable programs.

A Tampa Bay Times investigation in 2013 found Stacey Spiegel was paid $110,000 a year to serve as treasurer while her physician husband received more than half of the sum the charity spent on medical services.

The organization is not related to Project Healing Heroes, a veteran-run group that helps veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Organizations and individuals who deceive kind-hearted Virginians who only want to help veterans and service members are despicable and must be held accountable,” Herring said.

Joining Virginia in the settlement are the states of Washington, Florida, Ohio, Oregon, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico and California.

The settlement grew out of Operation Donate With Honor, a law enforcement sweep to combat veterans’ fundraising fraud that was coordinated in 2018 by the Federal Trade Commission and the National Association of State Charities Officials.

The Spiegels could not be reached immediately for comment.

dress@dailypress.com

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