Media Contact: Liz Brocker (701) 328-2213
BISMARCK, ND – Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has issued a cease and desist order against Thomas Burke of Pennsylvania, for violations of the charitable solicitations and consumer fraud laws. Burke organized “Officers Down 5K” races in North Dakota, supposedly to raise funds in support of law enforcement efforts.
“Mr. Burke preyed on North Dakota communities known for their support of local law enforcement and used that information to put money in his own pocket while leaving the supposed beneficiaries with unpaid bills. That is reprehensible,” said Stenehjem.
The consumer protection division began investigating Burke in January, after receiving a complaint from a consumer who was told she would not receive a refund of her registration fee after Burke canceled the Officers Down race that had been scheduled to take place in Bismarck in April.
Burke ignored investigators’ efforts to contact him. However, investigators learned that there were financial problems related to the 2016 Officers Down 5K races Burke had organized in Fargo and Bismarck. Burke, who is not registered as a charity or a professional fundraiser in North Dakota, produced promotional materials representing the 2016 Bismarck race as benefitting both the Bismarck Police Department’s Spouse’s Auxiliary organization and the Fraternal Order of Police’s annual Cops-N-Kids charity event. After the race, local organizers discovered that Burke had kept all the race profits and left them to pay the vendors’ bills. It took several months and the threat of legal action before Burke finally settled the bills and provided the promised share of the race profits. Fargo organizers reported similar problems.
It appears from reports in other states that Burke has made a habit of organizing races and then keeping the proceeds. There are criminal theft charges pending against him in Pennsylvania for not disbursing race proceeds and a vendor in Minnesota has a judgment against him for more than $16,000.