1005 N. Marion St.
Tampa, FL 33602
813.250.0500

Criminal Investigations Involving Charities in Tampa, FL

Florida law requires certain people involved with charities to register with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and comply with certain regulatory requirements including providing financial information about income and expenditures. The regulatory scheme is established by the Solicitations of Contributions Act under Chapter 496, Florida Statutes. Many violations of the regulatory scheme can be charged as a third degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in Florida State Prison. Other offenses can be charged under Florida's Grand Theft, Fraud, or White Collar Crime Statutes.

If you solicit charitable contributions in or from the State of Florida and are incorporated here, any activities connected to those solicitations, whether here or out of state, are generally subject to the jurisdiction of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Complaints are typically investigated by a Senior Financial Investigator of the Regulatory Investigation Section of the Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement.

Soliciting contributions in for from the State of Florida by any means or having funds soliciting on your behalf by any other person without being properly registered is a violation of Chapter 496, Florida Statutes. Engaging in unregistered activities may subject you to potential penalties, including, but not limited to, fines up to $1,000.00 per violation and possible criminal prosecution.

If you are under investigation for any allegations of criminal conduct related to a charity then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm. You have the right to be represented by counsel during any criminal or civil investigation. We can give you advice about how to come into compliance without incriminating yourself once a violation is discovered. We represent clients throughout Tampa, Hillsborough County, and the surrounding areas throughout Tampa Bay. Call us today for a consultation at 813-250-0500.


Solicitations of Contributions Act under Chapter 496, Florida Statutes

The term “solicitation” is defined in Section 496.404, Florida Statutes. The term “donation(s)” includes, but is not limited to, “contributions” as defined in Section 496.404, Florida Statutes, and includes anything of value (goods or services) given at a reduced or no price regardless of whether or not the thing of value is provided in response to a solicitation.

Many of these cases begin when the bank accounts for the charitable organization are frozen. In other cases, individuals in the charitable organization who are soliciting charitable contributions will be contacted by an investigatory with the Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement.

The investigator will often request a list of information including:

  1. Copies of all documents showing or relating to all income of the charity, including, but not limited to, any accounting, ledger, copies of checks received, evidence of donations or private funds received.
  2. Copies of all documents showing or relating to all expenditures of the charity, including, but not limited to, any accounting, ledger, copies of checks, invoices, receipts. etc.
  3. Copies of all monthly statements for each financial institution account related to the charity and each account that contains any funds solicited in connection with the charity.
  4. Copies of all signature cards for each financial institution account related to the charity and each account that contains any funds solicited in connection with the charity.
  5. Copies of all documents related to or showing all donations or private funds received by the charity or in response to a solicitation by the charity including but not limited to, any accounting, ledger, monthly statements, copies of checks received, copies of all expenditure checks.
  6. Copies of all documents related to the solicitation of funds including, but not limited to, any brochures, flyers, emails, social media postings, websites, confirmations of donations, receipts for donations, scripts and recordings of any audio or video advertisement, etc.
  7. Copies of all documents relating to or referencing any services volunteered to assist the charity, including any document that identifies or in any way references any person or entity that offered their services such as fundraisers, accountants, attorneys, etc.
  8. Copies of all correspondence between any officer, employee or volunteer of the charity, and any other officer, employee or volunteer that relates to any expenditure or proposed expenditure of more than $500.
  9. All documents that relate to or allege any misuse of funds by any officer, employee or volunteer of the charity.
  10. Copies of all documents related to or showing all solicitations, income and expenditures related to funds specifically solicited by the charity for the purpose of purchasing or leasing equipment including, but not limited to, any accounting, ledger, monthly statements, copies of checks, documents identifying or referencing donors, correspondence, social media postings, etc.
  11. Copies of all documents showing or related to any expenditure used for program services.
  12. Copies of all documents showing or related to any expenditure used for Administrative Expenses.
  13. Copies of all documents showing or related to any expenditure used for Fundraising Expenses.
  14. All documents showing minutes, votes and actions taken by the Board of Directors.
  15. All documents showing or related to any funds or assets used to benefit any officer or director of the charity, or used to pay for goods or services for the use of any officer or director.
  16. All documents showing all individuals who are authorized users of any account in which the charity, has an interest.  This includes, but is not limited to, signature cards for those accounts.

Additional Resources

Criminal Investigations of Charitable Organizations - Visit the website of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) to learn more about the enforcement of charitable organizations. Find the legal definition of a charity, the role of state agencies in protecting the public and regulating charitable organizations, and information on the initial and annual registration requirements and exemptions for each state. Also learn more about out state enforcement of charities including the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services under Chapter 496 of the Florida Statutes.


Finding an Attorney for Florida Chapter 496 Violations

If you are under criminal investigation for any violation of Florida law regarding requirements related to charities then contact a criminal defense attorney in Tampa, FL, at the Sammis Law Firm. We represent clients under investigation by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and comply with certain regulatory requirements. When appropriate, we help clients provide financial information about income and expenditures and comply with the complex regulatory scheme established by the Solicitations of Contributions Act under Chapter 496, Florida Statutes.

We also help clients deal with questions from the Senior Financial Investigator of the Regulatory Investigation Section of the Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement. You have a right to remain silent and to hire an attorney to assist you. We can help you come into compliance without incriminating yourself once a violation is discovered. We represent clients throughout Tampa, Hillsborough County, and the surrounding areas throughout Tampa Bay including Pinellas County, Pasco County, Hernando County, Polk County, Manatee County and Sarasota County, FL. 

Call us today for a consultation at 813-250-0500.


This article was last updated on Tuesday, June 14, 2016.