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Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen Obtains Judgments Against Perpetrators of Deceptive Missing Children Charity Scheme


MADISON — Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen today announced that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has obtained consent judgments totaling $40,000 against Michael Todd Messmer, of Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and Marilyn L. Broerman, of Charlotte, North Carolina, for their roles in operating a deceptive charitable solicitation campaign using candy donation canisters featuring posters of missing children.


In its enforcement suit filed in Waukesha County, the state alleged that the candy donation canisters placed in hundreds of southeast Wisconsin businesses misled consumers into believing that the money raised would assist in the search for missing children. In actuality, the state alleged, none of the proceeds went to charities involved in locating or assisting missing children.


According to the suit, Broerman developed the scheme, operating under the business names Creative Marketing Solutions and The Beacon Project. Messmer purchased more than 700 donation canisters, including more than 400 from Broerman, and, with Broerman's assistance, placed the canisters in small businesses throughout southeast Wisconsin.


Under the terms of the consent judgment approved by the court, Messmer must pay the state $20,000 in forfeitures and reimbursement for the state's costs in bringing the action. The judgment also bars Messmer from future violations of the state's charitable solicitation law. A similar judgment, also for $20,000, was entered in December 2011 against Broerman.


“Any type of deceptive charitable fundraising is unacceptable, but exploiting missing children to mislead the public and take advantage of generous citizens and business owners is truly reprehensible,” Attorney General Van Hollen said. “As this case demonstrates, we will not tolerate fraudulent charitable solicitations in Wisconsin, and will continue to go after those who seek donations under false pretenses.”


Assistant Attorney General John Greene represents the state in the case.


Copies of the judgments against Messmer and Broerman are available at the following links: