GIRARD - Police here joined forces with investigators from the Ohio Attorney General's Office to shutter a telephone solicitation operation that court filings say was targeting donations for the American Breast Cancer Federation and the American Veterans Federation.
Two major case investigators with the Attorney General's office say the two charitable organizations are fraudulent, and a temporary restraining order issued Friday in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court freezes any accounts holding money that was solicited by PJG Enterprises Inc. officed in a storefront at 206 N. State St.
According to a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Mike DeWine, Paul Grossi runs PJG and was named a defendant along with the charitable organizations and others affiliated with the organizations.
Capt. John Norman with Girard Police Department confirmed that Grossi's address, along with the addresses for the breast cancer and veterans group at 53 N. Brockway Ave., Youngstown, is nothing more than a vacant home.
The addresses are used in the complaint filed in court where Judge Andrew Logan has scheduled a hearing on a preliminary injunction at 10:15 a.m. May 11.
The attorney general is seeking up to $10,000 in civil penalties for each violation contained in a 16-count complaint.
The complaint also states that the attorney general from New Jersey also was granted a temporary restraining order against Grossi and PJG, who are ordered to respond to a show-cause order by May 24.
Court papers from New Jersey claim Grossi was soliciting donations for the same two organizations along with the Association for Police Officers and the Children's Cancer Assistance Network.
The two state investigators visited Grossi April 24 and in affidavits they said that Grossi first told them he was licensed to conduct telephone solicitations in Ohio. The investigators said the document they were shown by Grossi was fraudulent.
Grossi then admitted that he was not soliciting in Ohio, but investigators told him they just had confirmation of a solicitation call to a resident in Portsmouth, Ohio.
Those working for Grossi at the phone banks told investigators they were instructed to say that their call center was in Massachusetts.
Investigators also reported that they searched garbage bags near an outside trash container and found return envelopes from individuals in 25 different states addressed to the breast cancer and veterans organization in Holden, Mass.
Grossi was given a cease-and-desist order by the investigators.
Meanwhile, Girard police acting on a complaint from a 19-year-old Canfield woman who worked for PJG used a search warrant signed by Girard Municipal Judge Jeff Adler to confiscate computer equipment, information storage equipment, cameras and video surveillance equipment from the 206 N. State St. address.
The raid was conducted on April 25 following an April 7 criminal complaint from the woman, who said she was sexually harassed and molested by someone at PJG and solicited for oral sex. That investigation is ongoing and no arrests have been made in the case.
During the course of the investigation, Girard police reported that the alleged victim in their case told them that a least two females from Hubbard High School had been hired to work in the PJG offices through ads or fliers left on the windshields of students' vehicles. Girard police got similar complaints from faculty at Girard High School, where fliers were left on vehicle.