Monday, July 12, 2004
AG: Fund Raising Violated N.M. Law
Earlier this year, Doug Copp was awarded $649,000, tax free, from the fund set up to compensate victims of 9/11. He says it's not enough. But it's doubtful he deserves anything. A Journal investigation found no evidence Copp did real rescue work in New York. Read the Journal's full four-day series here.
By Leslie Linthicum
Journal Staff Writer
Doug Copp's Web site advertises his adventures and points out without much subtlety that he survives on donations.
"THE NEED ... In a word, MONEY, and a lot of it," the Web site says.
But in interviews, Copp denied his American Rescue Team International asks for money.
"I've never asked anybody for a cent," Copp said in April.
In May, Copp said, "Nobody ever did send any money because we never did solicit any funds."
In June, Copp changed the address for mailed contributions from New Mexico to California.
In an interview at that time, he said, "I never collected any money."
A few minutes later, he said, "We received $238 last year."
Despite what he says, Copp does solicit money and he does receive donations.
A PayPal link to donate to ARTI was on every page of the organization's Web site until they were removed in June. The site also had several pages that asked for donations by check or credit card.
ARTI has been in trouble with the state governments of New Mexico and California in recent months in regards to its status as a charitable organization and its solicitation of funds.
In New Mexico, Christine Turner, the registrar of charitable organizations for the New Mexico Attorney General's Office, found American Rescue Team International had solicited money in New Mexico as a nonprofit agency without meeting the proper regulations.
"They are in direct violation of the Charitable Solicitations Act," Turner said in May.
She said American Rescue Team International, of which Copp is executive director, never complied with requirements that it give the state information about its board of directors and documentation that shows how much money it has collected.
Turner said she referred the matter to the internal violations team.
"We just want them to quit asking for money," Turner said.
In early June, the American Rescue Team International changed its Web site to reflect a Post Office box in California for donations and dropped the New Mexico address from the site.
American Team Rescue International is registered as a 501(c)(3) charity with the Internal Revenue Service.
It has been registered in California as a nonprofit, but its status there was delinquent.
Copp received notification from the California secretary of state in April that his nonprofit status was out of compliance and that he would face a minimum penalty of $800 if he did not produce documentation.
In May, Copp filed the paperwork stating the organization's income for the past five years and was in good standing.
The paperwork shows annual gross receipts ranging from a high of $14,946 in 2001 to a low of $1,610 in 2003.
Copp calls his nonprofit problems a "bureaucratic mistake" and blames them on the Journal for inquiring about his nonprofit status.
"It's a hell of a nightmare," he said. "I'm going to have to sort this out and I'm too sick to be doing this."