By Claire Byun
Warren Easton Charter High School officials are expecting some fundraising shortages this year thanks to a Texas-based scam that hit Mid-City late last year.
In December, school officials got wind of a Texas-based company that would solicit local businesses for T-shirt sponsorships, though none of the money raised went toward the school. The scammers approached local businesses and asked for a donation – usually in the $1,000 to $2,000 range – toward a T-shirt that features the business’ name printed on the back.
The T-shirts were made and distributed to the businesses but those soliciting were not doing so on Warren-Easton’s behalf. The school’s board of directors discussed legal action at their board meeting Wednesday, as well as the impact the scam will have on this year’s fundraising goals.
“Longterm, it’s not going to hurt us,” said board chair David Garland. “But short term, merchants probably depleted the funds they had for us this year.”
School officials have been battling similar scams for years, most notably in 2014 when administration debated taking legal action against a group who misused the school’s name online to pocket alumni money. Several websites were selling false alumni memberships and gear, ex-officio board member Arthur Hardy said.
Warren Easton staff made phone calls, wrote letters and issued cease-and-desist letters to the scammers, Garland said. The board also sent a notice to the Better Business Bureau.
Part of the reason the Texas company gets away with the scam every so often is because its invoices to Mid-City businesses look like official invoices, Garland said. The scammers also probably have a very strict legal script they stick to while soliciting, which allows them to basically skirt the law, board member David Benelli said.
“It all depends on the sales pitch,” Benelli said.
Board officials advised the public that any solicitations for donations or scholarships for Warren Easton are only valid if issued with the school’s letterhead or signed by principal Alexina Medley. School officials occasionally have a difficult time fundraising after these scams, Medley said, which “does hurt” the school.
There is a bright side, however, according to Garland.
“It gives us an opportunity to meet the community and talk to them, and gain their trust face-to-face,” Garland said.