Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has announced that a Franklin County judge has granted a default judgment against TEEN USA and Darien E. Smith of Cleveland for violating the terms of an agreement the organization made with the Attorney General’s Office in November 2013.
Smith had 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. He violated the agreement by failing to dissolve TEEN USA, failing to cease soliciting charitable donations, and failing to make payments.
“Through TEEN USA, teens went door-to-door selling candy, but the money raised was not used for charitable purposes,” DeWine said. “We believe this group, and others like it, may still be operating in the Cleveland area, and we urge anyone who encounters a suspicious solicitation to contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office immediately.”
The judgment orders Darien Smith and TEEN USA to pay a $320,000 civil penalty of liquidated damages. It also prohibits Smith and TEEN USA from soliciting for any charitable purposes in Ohio and grants relief to enforce all the terms of the previous agreement, an Assurance of Discontinuance.
TEEN USA 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.