Pa. A.G. Releases $14,000 for Hiring of Firefighters, Promoting Emergency Services

August 16, 2004

Pennsylvania Attorney General Jerry Pappert announced the release of $14,000 to two non-profit organizations that recruit and train firefighters and promote county, regional and state emergency services.

Pappert said the $14,000 will be shared equally by the Pennsylvania Fire Service Institute, 223 State Street, Harrisburg, and the Allegheny County Fire Academy, 700 West Ridge Rd., Allison Park, Allegheny County.

The funds represent restitution that was obtained by Pappert’s Charitable Trusts and Organizations Section following an investigation into the fund-raising activities of Xentel Inc., a Canadian-based telemarketing group. The Pennsylvania Professional Fire Fighters Association (PPFFA) hired Xentel to solicit donations in the Allentown area and throughout western Pennsylvania.

In December 2002, the Commonwealth entered into an “Assurance of Voluntary Compliance” agreement with Xentel to resolve alleged violations of Pennsylvania’s Charities Act and Consumer Protection Law.

Pappert said Xentel was accused of giving false and misleading information to potential donors during a 1999 and 2002 telemarketing fund-raising campaign. The 1999 campaign took place in western Pennsylvania and Allentown, while the 2002 campaign was conducted solely in the western part of the state.

According to undercover investigators, Xentel telemarketing employees falsely told potential donors that they were firefighters from their local community who “need help” to maintain and update fire safety programs.

The callers also claimed that portions of the money raised would assist the Children’s Burn Camp in Millvale, Allegheny County. In other cases, potential donors were reportedly misled into believing that the funds raised would help firefighters statewide. Contributors to the 1999 telemarketing campaign were also falsely told that, after concert expenses, 100 percent of the proceeds raised from a benefit concert would go to the PPFFA.

Under the terms of the settlement, Xentel was required to pay $14,000 in restitution, $6,000 in fines and costs and permanently cease operating in violation of Pennsylvania’s Charities Act and Consumer Protection Law.

“Pennsylvanians generously gave to this public safety organization to help firefighters, and promote fire safety and prevention,” Pappert said. “The two non-profit groups receiving the restitution funds are dedicated to those very causes.”

Pappert said the Pennsylvania Fire Service Institute will use the money to provide its more than 100 county, regional and state fire and emergency service organizations with current information on issues affecting emergency responders including directing new recruits to local fire departments.

The Allegheny County Fire Academy will use the funds to continue its training of firefighters and hazmat members, plus assist those seeking scholarships to attend the academy for training and certification. In addition, the organization conducts a program known as Fire VEST that concentrates on recruiting new volunteer firefighters.

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