Arizona company barred in Iowa after false solicitation calls
An Arizona company, sued in June by Attorney General Tom Miller, has been barred from all future telemarketing and mail solicitations in Iowa because it used falsehoods about raising money for those with disabilities to elicit funds from state residents.
District Court Judge Brad McCall earlier ordered Phoenix-based Americans with Disabilities, L.L.C., a for-profit company, and its owner, Dale R. Sieck, from future telephone and mail solicitations to Iowa consumers. The company was ordered to pay a $2,000 penalty to a state elderly victim fund that benefits the investigation and prosecutions of frauds against older Iowans.
On Tuesday, District Court Judge Artis Reis issued a consent judgment that barred telephone solicitor Jeffrey A. Balke, who worked on behalf of the company, from future telephone and mail solicitations to Iowans.
Miller’s lawsuit against Americans with Disabilities, filed June 3, came after the state’s Consumer Protection Division recorded the following phone call in which Balke, soliciting for the company, weaves a very tragic story about how he, supposedly a native of Dubuque, is blind, uses a seeing eye dog, is a Vietnam veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange and had a daughter die on Thanksgiving Day from cystic fibrosis. (LISTEN)
A Consumer Protection Division investigation determined that none of Balke’s claims were grounded in reality. He only passed through Dubuque one time; wears eyeglasses but is not blind; was 13 years old in 1971 and never served in Vietnam; and has three very healthy adult children.
Judge Reis indicated in his order than each future violation by Balke should be penalized “in the highest amount provided” by the Iowa Consumer Fraud Act.
Americans With Disabilities sells products by phone, including $45 tins of cookies, saying it uses its profits to help disabled people. A company produce insert stated that it makes “a special effort to enable handicapped or otherwise disadvantaged workers” by paying “a great percentage” of sales proceeds to workers who “have had trouble in obtaining employment in the mainstream workforce.”
In the wake of the suit, Miller reminds Iowans to continue giving to charity, but to give wisely by being aware of such fraud. His advice includes being leery of a sympathetic name or sales pitch, asking specific questions about how the organization spends its money and requesting written information. More information avoiding charity fraud is available on the Attorney General’s website.