Company named in charity lawsuit

GLENDALE — A Glendale-based fundraising company has been named in a state-filed lawsuit that alleges the organization duped donors into giving hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of a nonexistent program for at-risk youth.

The for-profit company, Rambret Inc., reportedly promised donors that their money was going to help run the Law Enforcement Apprenticeship Program, which never saw the light of day, according to the lawsuit filed Friday.

Donations were instead used to pay for a 30-foot sailboat, fundraising expenses and the Law Enforcement Apprenticeship Program Foundation director’s personal expenditures, the lawsuit alleges. In 2003, the foundation brought in $529,863 in donations, with just $31,501 spent on a program that authorities said never actually enrolled a student or officially operated.

The foundation also raised $372,623 in 2003, but only $5,615 went to the program.

Calls were made to Rambret Inc., but its phone number was disconnected.

State Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown’s lawsuit also includes 11 other charities, 53 people and 17 telemarketers, and alleges that they used deceptive practices to get donations intended for firefighters, police and veterans, and misspent millions on telemarketing and overhead.

Brown wants contributors to be paid back, and the disbandment of the eight charities, including the apprenticeship program foundation, according to the state attorney general’s office.

The lawsuits are part of the nationwide sweep called “Operation False Charity,” which targeted organizations that raised millions under the guise of benefiting public safety personnel. The money, however, rarely went to actual programming. Instead, up to 90% went to pay for-profit telemarketing firms, according to the lawsuit.

Rambret Inc., located at the 1600 block of Gardena Avenue, received more than 12% from the foundation’s earnings, according to the lawsuit.

Camille Levee’s nonprofit organization, Glendale Healthy Kids, doesn’t contract with professional fundraising companies because, she said, it is expensive and the businesses take a large percentage of the donations.

Just 7% of the organization’s budget pays for fundraising efforts, Levee said, and most legitimate charities post their earnings online.

Lawsuits like the most recent from Brown’s office help the public understand the differences between legitimate, transparent nonprofits, and the risks of those organizations that are more opaque.

“I think, if anything, it will help us,” she said.

The Glendale Police Foundation has never used Rambret or any telemarketing service to raise funds for the Police Department, foundation President John Gantus said.

“We are really more of a one-on-one with businesses,” he said. “I think people know what the Glendale Police Foundation is all about.”

The foundation plays a pivotal role in funding the department’s K-9 unit.

The lawsuit, Gantus said, shouldn’t have an effect on the foundation’s fundraising efforts.

“I don’t think that we will be affected, and I continue to look forward to work with [donors],” he said.

From 2001 to 2004, the Law Enforcement Apprenticeship Program Foundation ran out of Rambret’s Gardena Avenue office.

Glendale residents Greg Sawtelle, Monty Holden and Michael Dicesare formed the foundation in 2000, according to the lawsuit. They could not be reached for comment Monday.

The lawsuit alleges that both companies failed to report annual earnings, keep records and books, and breached charitable trust.


 VERONICA ROCHA covers public safety and the courts. She may be reached at (818) 637-3232 or by e-mail at veronica.rocha@latimes.com.

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