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For immediate release Monday, May 18, 2009.
Contact Bob Brammer 515-281-6699 or rbrammer@ag.state.ia.us

Judge Prohibits “United Youth Careers” from Using Children to Solicit Donations

Group sends youth canvassers door-to-door to ask for donations and sell candy, purportedly to aid underprivileged youth in Des Moines.

Des Moines. Polk County District Court Judge Don Nickerson has entered an injunction prohibiting United Youth Careers, Inc., from using minors to solicit donations door-to-door in the Des Moines area.

“This injunction should effectively shut down United Youth Careers’ alleged most egregious activity -- using children to deceive the public, and putting children at risk,” said Attorney General Tom Miller. [Go to: injunction entered May '09.]

Door-to-door solicitors for United Youth Careers have canvassed Central Iowa for many years, selling candy and telling potential contributors that proceeds are applied toward counseling services, job training, scholarships, and other youth education programs.

Miller’s Office filed a lawsuit last year alleging the directors of United Youth Careers, Inc., “engaged in a pattern of behavior establishing that the true purpose of United Youth is not public benefit but rather self-enrichment.” The suit alleged the group had “abandoned its charitable purpose” and should be dissolved. [Go to: lawsuit filed 7-1-08.] The Court issued a preliminary injunction, while the case was awaiting trial, prohibiting United Youth Careers from using children in any way that threatened their welfare.

Trial of the suit had been set for March, but, when the trial was moved back to a later date still to be determined, the Attorney General’s Office sought to expand the preliminary injunction because of concerns about the welfare of children.

At a recent hearing on the injunction, the Attorney General’s Office offered testimony to the Court by a Des Moines woman who said a middle-school-aged United Youth solicitor came to her home on a wintry night in January and told her that, unless he sold five boxes of candy, he could not get a ride home. The woman testified that she bought the candy to get the child out of the cold.

The expanded injunction specifically prohibits United Youth Careers from “utilizing, employing or otherwise engaging any minors to solicit donations or make sales on behalf of any entity in any manner.” Violations of the injunction are punishable by contempt of court proceedings. The expanded injunction was entered May 6 by Judge Nickerson and received last week by the AG’s Office.

Attorney General Miller asked for the public’s help in enforcing the new injunction. “If you see children selling candy or soliciting on behalf United Youth Careers in your neighborhood, please contact the AG’s Office at 281-5926, or call the police.”

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Background on the AG’s Lawsuit vs. United Youth Careers, which remains pending:

The AG’s lawsuit was filed July 1, 2008. Trial had been set for March 2009, but trial was continued to a later date (still to be determined) when for some time the defendants’ counsel had withdrawn. [Go to: AG news release 7-1-08 on the lawsuit.]

Defendants in the lawsuit are United Youth Careers, Inc., and four officers or directors: Kenneth N. McGregor, Sr., Marjorie Watson, Lillie Ward, and Antonio Ward.

“Our suit alleges that officers and directors of the corporation have exploited this non-profit corporation for their own private monetary gain,” Miller said when the suit was filed.

The suit alleges that officers and directors repeatedly made illegal distributions or loans to themselves and family members from United Youth Careers accounts.

Door-to-door solicitors for United Youth Careers tell potential contributors that donations are applied toward counseling services, job training, scholarships, and other youth education programs, and also that donations are tax-deductible. United Youth Careers has not obtained IRS status to make donations tax-deductible, the suit alleged.

The defendants “have defrauded hundreds of Iowans,” the suit said. The suit asks the Court to dissolve United Youth Careers, prohibit further violations, order civil penalties, and order distribution of any assets to legitimate charitable purposes.

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