Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive

Tuesday, October 23, 2001


Allegations Leveled Against Marketers and Harris County Deputies' Association

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn, together with the Harris County Attorney's office, filed a lawsuit today in Houston asking the district court to put a stop to the alleged deceptive tactics of telemarketers hired by the leadership of the Harris County Deputies' Organization. The court also issued a temporary restraining order and ordered that certain assets of the organization and its telemarketers be frozen, pending a hearing on Nov. 2. The organization is a local sheriffs' union.

The marketing groups singled out in the lawsuit, Houston Marketing Consultants and Publishing, and RKI, allegedly engaged in widespread holiday fund raising last year and illegally misappropriated the name "Toys for Tots." The name is a trademarked charity of the U.S. Marine Corps. The deputies' organization is accused of raising more than $100,000 using the name Toys for Tots. Little of this money was returned to the Marine Corps for proper distribution.

"My office worked in conjunction with Harris County Attorney Michael Stafford in this investigation and lawsuit to halt the aggressive overindulgence of the organization's leadership and its hired marketing arm," said Attorney General Cornyn. "By abusing the name of the esteemed Toys for Tots program, this organization has at the same time unforgivably abused the good name of the Marine Corps."

The lawsuit names the deputies' organization, as well as Ed Christensen, individually, as president of the organization. Also named are Ron Kowalsky, doing business as RKI, and John Merritt, doing business as Houston Marketing Consultants and Publishing.

According to the suit, the defendants engaged in fund raising efforts under the banner of stopping domestic violence, helping widows and children of slain officers, and drug awareness, but they also often used the name Toys for Tots to attract donations. The telemarketers also identified themselves falsely as law enforcement officers. No evidence has surfaced to prove that any proceeds raised from these efforts actually benefitted those in need. Only after subpoenas had been issued during this investigation did the organization rush to purchase bicycles and donate them to Toys for Tots during a special holiday program.

Also requested in the suit are penalties for violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act, the Business and Commerce Code, the Texas Occupations Code and the Telephone Solicitation Act. The suit also requests $100,000 in restitution to the Marine Corps and attorneys' fees.

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