April 25, 2008
The Capital PL-01
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050
Dear Mr. McCollum:
I am writing to bring to your attention a fraudulent charity that is operating out of Florida and scamming well-meaning individuals.
I received a solicitation yesterday for an organization calling itself “Macular Degeneration Association” and which identifies itself as “a mission of,” i.e., a front for, the “American Medical Research Organization”. The address given for the organization is 420 Beach Road, P.O. Box 20256, Sarasota, FL 34276, and the telephone number given is 941-870-4399. The charity claims to be registered in Florida with the registration number CH18753.
Here is how I know that this organization is a scam:
- There is no presence on the Web for the “Macular Degeneration Association” or the “American Medical Research Organization”. No reputable charity operates without a Web site.
- The solicitation provides no email address for contacting the organization. Again, reputable charities always provide a mechanism for contacting them on-line.
- The telephone number is bogus.
- The mailing address is a condominium or apartment building, not an office.
- There is no evidence on the Web that any organization or researcher receives any financial support from this either MDA or AMRO.
- The organization does not appear to have either a board of directors or endorsements from any medical professionals.
- The president of the organization according to the solicitation letter, Michael Alicea, does not appear to be any sort of medical professional. The only evidence I could find on the Web for what he does with his time seems to suggest that he spends quite a bit of it visiting night clubs in the Sarasota area.
- The contact for the organization listed on its IRS Form 990, Lawrence Hoffheimer, also is not any sort of medical professional; it appears that he is a lawyer.
- There is no indication in the solicitation letter of how the organization spends the money it raises.
- The organization has not been evaluated or rated by the American Institute of Philanthropy.
- The solicitation letter engages in the known tactic of slipping in a little piece of “educational material” at the end of the letter, “P.S. Be sure and make regular eye examinations a regular part of your efforts to maintain a health lifestyle”, so that the cost of the solicitation can be counted as a “program expense” on the organization’s financial reports.
If you investigate this organization more closely, you will almost certainly find that virtually all of its “program expenses” consist of the cost of sending out fundraising letters, and that the rest of the money it raises is used almost entirely to pay salaries to Michael Alicea and others affiliated with the organization.
Please put a stop to this fraudulent activity.
CC: Martha Coakley, Attorney General
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
CC: Daniel Borochoff, President
American Institute of Philanthropy
CC: MacDonald Curran, Chairman
AMD Alliance International
CC: Chip Goehring, President
American Macular Degeneration Foundation
CC: Edmund J. Aleksandrovich, President
Macular Degeneration Foundation