NC leaders warn consumers, corporations about fake charities

Investigators

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina’s Secretary of State issued a warning for both consumers and corporations about charity fraud. It follows the conviction and sentencing of a woman who ran two charities that the state said are fraudulent.

Jennifer Pierce was sentenced on Sept. 16 to a minimum of 10 years in jail following her conviction on multiple felony counts of obtaining property by false pretense, and illegally using the identity of a corporation to commit fraud.

Pierce first gained public attention in 2010 after a massive earthquake rocked Haiti.

Her charity, named Share Our Shoes, made a big splash collecting shoes for the earthquake victims.

When floods struck Nashville in May 2010, the Share Our Shoes charity was front and center again.

“We found the intended beneficiaries of her projects weren’t getting them,” said Secretary of State Elaine Marshall. “She was selling the shoes and converting the money to other things.”

Following an investigation, the Secretary of State’s office issued a cease and desist order to Share Our Shoes, but said Pierce was soon at it again.

“Unfortunately, she didn’t learn her lesson,” said Marshall. “She started a new charity and this was more complex than the other one.”

Marshall’s office said Pierce represented herself as the operator of a non-existent charity in order to receive large orders of mobile phones with service contracts from AT&T during 2014.

AT&T lost $521,540 in the scheme.

CBS 17’s Steve Sbraccia had been digging into that case as investigators looked into the non-existent charity.

Pierce was charged with receiving the mobile devices and then not paying for them. She instead sold them for cash.

The case just recently went to trial.

On Sept. 13, a jury convicted her of running that fake charity. She was sentenced to jail three days later.

Marshall said Pierce’s fake charities serve as a warning to consumers.

“People need to check and see if charities are appropriately registered,’’ she said. “You can see how much money goes into the mission of what the charity is.”

Those listings are available online.

Marshall said Pierce also illegally entered her office’s database to make changes to a pair of corporations she was not affiliated with.

Marshall added that there is a way for a corporation to guard against that.

“Any corporation can sign up for a subscription service. So, you can see any activity in your business profile and if something has changed,” she said.

In addition to her 10-year sentence, the court has ordered Pierce to pay $500,000 in restitution.

Marshall thinks that money won’t ever be repaid.

“I have doubt it will happen unless she inherits some property or something like that,’’ said Marshall.

As for Pierce, she said at her sentencing she was sorry for what happened and sorry she hurt people in the process.

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