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Judge grants preliminary injunction against sham charity

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Apr 24, 2014 at 2:07 PM

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced today a Franklin County judge has granted a preliminary injunction 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. Smith violated the agreement by failing to dissolve TEEN USA and for failing to make payments due to the Attorney General’s Office. Smith and TEEN USA are still actively soliciting in the Cleveland area.

The decision today orders Darien Smith and TEEN USA and its owners, officers, managers, directors, agents and representatives to immediately cease all acts of solicitation for any charitable purpose, and the freezing of all associated personal and business bank accounts.

“I urge anyone in Ohio, and particularly in the greater Cleveland area, who witnesses a solicitation from TEEN USA to immediatley call the Attorney General's Office at 1-800-282-0515 [Call: 1-800-282-0515] to report it," said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

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.

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