Oregon DOJ: Child trafficking charity gets fundraising ban
On Wednesday, Aug. 25, Clackamas County Circuit Court Judge Michael C. Wetzel dismissed a legal case against Corey Stark, founder of the now-dissolved Northwest Giving Hope Foundation. Stark was on trial for allegedly failing to honor the financial terms of multiple service contracts between him and his customers.
The case was dismissed following a settlement reached Aug. 2 between Stark and Oregon Attorney General Ellen F. Rosenblum prohibiting Stark from several actions — including soliciting money or contributions through his foundation or any other charitable organization or purpose in the state of Oregon — in exchange for dismissal of the case.
Stark formed the foundation in 2016, promoting it as a charitable entity for victims of child trafficking that generated its revenue through community-based live auctions, estate sales and a thrift store in Oregon City. Despite the foundation being a for-profit company, Stark maintained that revenues were used to aid trafficking victims in some way, yet the foundation was never registered with the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) as either a charity or a professional fundraiser.
Per legal documents obtained by Pamplin Media Group, the DOJ received "several complaints" in 2019 from Stark's consumers, some alleging that Stark "failed to honor the financial terms of their contracts for services, specifically by refusing or failing to pay consumers amounts owed to them under the contract and by failing to return unsold merchandise."
Despite DOJ investigators meeting with Stark in June 2019 to explain his obligations to register the foundation as a charitable entity, Stark failed to comply, instead forming a corporation in Washington called NW Giving Hope Ministries which he claimed to be "self-supported ministry," exempt from registration and other laws governing charitable organizations in the state of Oregon. The ministry was never registered with either the DOJ or the Oregon Secretary of State to do business or engage in charitable solicitations in Oregon.
In January 2020, Rosenblum served Stark with a civil investigative demand seeking documents and other information proving his claim that the foundation's revenue benefited charitable interests, as well as any information related to the various consumer complaints, due at the end of February 2020.
The same day, Rosenblum also served Stark with a notice that she would file a separate civil investigative demand to his financial institutions. Stark's financial institutions responded with documents that showed "questionable financial practices" including payment of Stark's personal expenses using charitable assets, and "no apparent charitable activity or program services."
Stark failed to fulfill the civil investigative demand and sent a letter to the DOJ in April 2020 which appeared to suggest that the newly-formed ministry was a "religious organization exempt from IRS and state regulation."
In December 2020, the DOJ informed Stark that his failure to respond adequately to the demand was delinquent, and if no response was received by Jan. 8, 2021, the DOJ would file a petition with the Oregon Circuit Court that they require Stark to appear and testify at a hearing.
Stark once again failed to respond by the deadline, and was later ordered to appear in front of Wetzel for a multiple-day hearing beginning June 30 and meeting once again on July 26. Stark represented himself in both hearings.
After the second meeting, a settlement was reached in which Stark agreed to no longer solicit money through his foundation or any other charitable organization or purpose in Oregon. Stark is also prohibited from forming another nonprofit or charitable organization in Oregon and additionally must refrain from working on behalf of another such organization in any capacity, not just solicitation, in the state for the next five years.
Other restrictions Stark has agreed to are no longer operating, promoting or receiving payment for auctions, estate sales or thrift stores as he did previously through his foundation, as well as disseminating or facilitating charitable solicitations of any form in the state of Oregon.
On Aug. 23, Rosenblum notified Wetzel that she was voluntarily dismissing her original petition with prejudice and without costs, officially ordered and adjudged by Wetzel Aug. 25.
Pamplin Media Group was unable to reach Stark for comment.
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