Questionable charity busted by the state - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Questionable charity busted by the state

Donna Morse Donna Morse
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September 29, 2003

Albany - An Albany company is caught putting unauthorized charges on credit cards. Now, the Secretary of State issued a cease and desist order against the company Frankly Speaking. The order accuses Frankly Speaking of charging charitable donations to credits cards without permission.

Consumers in 11 states say the company illegally charged them $9.95 for a donation for a drug prevention program. But, the company isn't registered as a charity with the state. The Federal Trade Commission is investigating how they got credit card numbers.

The state ordered Frankly Speaking to stop soliciting from its 422 West Oglethorpe location, which is a motel. We found New Leaf Transitional Home, not Frankly Speaking in the office. "They opened this transitional house," said Donna Morse. "This is a place where recovery drug addicts can stay and find help."

Morse quickly said she new little about the cease and desist order. She also said Frankly Speaking was located at the Ledo Complex on North Slappey until it closed a few weeks back. But, the owner of that complex says Don Lasker, the owner of Frankly Speaking, hasn't used the building since January. Then, Lasker owned another business.

"I don't know anything. I wasn't involved in that," said Morse when asked about the current problems with Frankly Speaking. Even though Donna Morse claims to know nothing about the questionable credit card charges, she is specifically named in the State's cease and desist order. A victim, who complained about charges on her card, says Morse cussed at her and then hung up the phone.

Frankly speaking is accused of calling people and asking for $9.95 donation for the drug prevention program. An automated system informed the consumer the donation would be billed to their credit card if they stayed on the line for more than 15 seconds. Business owner Don Lasker declined an on camera interview, but he did say consumers were given three chances during the message to cancel the donation. The Secretary of State's office says the charges are illegal unless the card holder specifically approves the donation. In addition, the FTC wants to know how the company got the credit card numbers in the first place.

When asked where Frankly Speaking found the card number, Donna Morse answered, "I don't know." Lasker says he bought the list, but didn't say where. Any such list is illegal, and the Secretary of State immediately halted all charitable or other solicitations by Frankly Speaking pending an investigation.

Lasker says he's in the process of applying for charity status with the state. He claims he has done nothing illegal.

posted at 6:00PM by kathryn.murchison@walb.com