Ohio Attorney General sues charity claiming to help East Palestine residents

Published: Apr. 11, 2023 at 10:16 AM EDT
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EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WOIO) - The manager of a charity that was supposed to provide East Palestine residents with emergency aid and bottled water instead pocketed more than $130,000, said Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.

According to Yost, Mike Peppel said his organization, Ohio Clean Water Fund, was a non-profit acting on behalf of Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley and wanted to help the residents after the Feb. 3 Norfolk-Southern toxic train derailment.

Yost said Peppel pocketed at least $131,000 of the roughly $141,000 raised from more than 3,000 donors.

“The idea that somebody would so brazenly exploit a disaster situation and the good hearts of people who want to help is unconscionable,” Yost said. “I’m mad as hell about this, and we’re going to make sure this sham charity gets shut down.”

Yost added representatives of Second Harvest Food Bank had not authorized the partnership cited by Peppel.

Yost is seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to halt Peppel’s illegal activity, prohibit him from engaging in additional charitable solicitations and preserve existing charitable assets.

“Here’s a message for anybody else who might hope to profit from the situation in East Palestine: Don’t even think about it,” Yost said.

Ohioans who suspect misuse of charitable funds or fraudulent fundraising activities should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or charitable.ohioago.gov.