Goddard Announces Reimbursement Fund for Charity Scam Victims

(Phoenix, Ariz. -- Dec. 16, 2010) Attorney General Terry Goddard today announced the creation of a fund to reimburse victims of a fraudulent raffle held by an organization holding itself out as a charity to combat childhood obesity.

Earlier this fall, Attorney General’s Office filed charges against Christie Lee Acevedo, 41, and Natasha Rae Harper, 27, both of Anthem, for their involvement with the fraudulent raffle on behalf of a non-profit organization called the American Foundation for Childhood Obesity, also known by the acronym “AMFFCO”. The charges allege that the raffle was never registered as required by law, and that the foundation never intended to provide the prize.

Both Acevedo and Harper have pleaded guilty and admitted their roles in the fraud. Harper was sentenced earlier this week by Commissioner Kathleen Mead to two years probation. Acevedo is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 5.

Between April and December 2008, the foundation advertised a raffle to win a 2008 BMW 325i automobile, with the drawing to be held December 25, 2008. However, the Foundation never purchased the car and did not have sufficient funds to do so. The defendants admitted holding a sham “drawing” which they knew would result in no prize being awarded. An unknown number of people bought approximately 200 tickets thinking they were donating their money in the name of charity for a chance to win the new car. Acevedo is accused of taking advantage of these victims’ generosity by taking their raffle money without any intention of providing a prize. The foundation, which listed Acevedo as an officer, has since been closed.

If you believe you have been a victim of this scheme, please contact the Attorney General’s Office in Phoenix at (602) 542-5763; in Tucson at (520) 628-6504; or outside the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas at (800) 352-8431. Victims should provide any documentation they have to support their claim, including their raffle tickets, receipts or cancelled checks. The fund, created by the court as a part of the convictions of Acevedo and Harper, will reimburse victims who can document their purchase of tickets from the fraudulent raffle.

To file a complaint in person, the Attorney General’s Office has satellite offices throughout the state with volunteers available to help. Locations and hours of operation are posted on the Attorney General’s Web site, www.azag.gov

Assistant Attorney General Todd Lawson is handling this case. It was investigated by the Money Laundering Task Force, a joint effort involving the Attorney General’s Office, Department of Public Safety and Phoenix Police Department.

For more information, contact Janey Pearl at (602) 542-8019.