Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced Friday that civil charges have been filed against TEEN USA and Darien E. Smith of Cleveland for violating the terms of an Assurance of Discontinuance — a legal agreement the organization made with the Attorney General’s Office in November of 2013.
According to the agreement, Smith agreed to dissolve TEEN USA, to not hold any position in or participate in soliciting donations for any charitable organization in Ohio, and to pay $10,000 to the Attorney General’s Office. Through TEEN USA, teens went door-to-door selling candy, but the money raised was not used for charitable purposes.
The complaint filed alleges Smith violated the agreement by failing to dissolve Teen USA and for failing to make payments due to the Attorney General’s Office. According to the allegations, Smith and TEEN USA are still actively soliciting in the Cleveland area.
“Repeated violations committed by phony charitable organizations such as TEEN USA will not be taken lightly,” DeWine said. “My office will do everything in its power to make sure justice is served in this case.”
A Temporary Restraining Order and a Preliminary Injunction have been issued requiring Smith and Teen USA to cease charitable solicitations in Ohio and freezing all associated personal and business bank accounts from any further activity.
Teen USA was registered as a nonprofit with the Ohio Secretary of State with a stated purpose of “fundraising for low income individuals, sports teams, and schools.” A previous investigation conducted by the Attorney General’s Charitable Law Section revealed that Smith misappropriated funds while running the organization from 2010 to 2013. Smith solicited teenagers to sell candy in Cleveland area neighborhoods as a fundraiser for TEEN USA but contributed nothing toward a charitable purpose, instead allowing the teens to keep some of the money for themselves while keeping a larger portion for himself.
Citizens in the Cleveland area who witness any further solicitations by TEEN USA are encouraged to contact the Attorney General's Office at 800-282-0515.
A copy of the lawsuit and the Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction are available on the Ohio Attorney General's website.