A Portland man faces possible prison time and at least $40,000 in civil penalties after fraudulently representing himself as a Robertson County deputy sheriff who was raising money for a charitable publication to be produced by the sheriff’s office.
Branden L. Fitzgerald, 19, was arrested and notified of the civil penalties against him this week following cooperative efforts involving the state’s Division of Charitable Solicitations and Gaming and the Robertson County Sheriff’s Office.
The investigation found that Fitzgerald did business under the name Local Youth Prevention Services.
Then he contacted Robertson County business owners, claiming to be a Robertson County Sheriff’s Office deputy sheriff who was selling advertisements for a drug awareness magazine.
Fitzgerald told the business owners that a deputy sheriff would collect payments for the magazine ads, the investigation concluded.
Robertson County deputies arrested Fitzgerald Monday on charges of criminal impersonation and theft of property. He was released from Robertson County Jail on a $20,000 bond.
Todd Kelley, director of the Division of Charitable Solicitations and Gaming, informed Fitzgerald by letter Wednesday afternoon about the civil penalties that will be imposed against him.
“I hope the action taken against Mr. Fitzgerald will discourage other people from trying to pose as charitable fundraisers and scam citizens out of their hard-earned money,” said Secretary of State Tre Hargett, who oversees the Division of Charitable Solicitations and Gaming. “These unscrupulous individuals need to be aware that the Division of Charitable Solicitations and Gaming and local law enforcement officials are on the lookout for them. And when these types of scams are discovered, there are serious consequences for the people who run them.”
Kelley said the investigation is ongoing and noted that additional civil penalties or criminal charges could be brought against Fitzgerald if additional victims come forward.
“I encourage anyone in Tennessee who believes a charitable organization might be using deceptive, misleading or fraudulent practices to get in touch with our division,” Kelley said. “We take those investigations very seriously and the civil penalties we can impose are substantial.”
Officials in the Division of Charitable Solicitations and Gaming may be reached at (615) 741-2555. Information about charitable organizations that have properly registered with the state is available on the Tennessee Department of State’s web site at http://www.state.tn.us/sos/charity