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Hearing date set in scam lawsuit

LISBON — A motions hearing is set for 1 p.m. April 20 in a lawsuit filed by Ohio Attorney General David Yost alleging a Leetonia man formed a fake charity and solicited donations claiming they would help East Palestine residents.

Columbiana County Common Pleas Judge Scott Washam has granted Yost’s motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop Michael Peppel’s alleged illegal activity, prohibit him from engaging in additional charitable solicitations and preserve existing charitable assets.

Yost filed the lawsuit this week against Peppel and the alleged charity he called the Ohio Clean Water Fund.

Out of $141,183 raised from 3,269 donors, the lawsuit claims at least $91,769 of the funds went to administrative fees. Out of the $35,295 remaining, only $10,000 went to the Second Harvest Food Bank, which Peppel claimed to be representing when in reality, no connection to the food bank existed.

“I’m mad as hell about this, and we’re going to make sure this sham charity gets shut down,” Yost said.

Michael Iberis, executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank, filed a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office on March 30 about Peppel and the Ohio Clean Water Fund, noting no partnership had been approved as claimed by Peppel who was soliciting contributions via emails and text messages.

Claims against Peppel and Ohio Clean Water Fund include committing deceptive acts or practice; misrepresenting contributions for a charitable organization without written authorization; misleading persons as to material facts concerning solicitation; failure to register with the Secretary of State’s Office as a charity; unlawful professional solicitation; and breach of fiduciary duties.

In the entry approving the temporary restraining order, Washam wrote good cause exists to believe that the defendants, Peppel and the Ohio Clean Water Fund, “unlawfully committed deceptive acts or practices in the course of their charitable solicitations.”

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