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Archive for Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tonganoxie-based Purple Heart Veterans Foundation being sued for trademark infringement

August 31, 2011

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Kansas Department of Corrections mug shot of Andrew Gruber, a Tonganoxie man who founded two nonprofit organizations, the Purple Heart Veterans Foundation and Kids vs. Cancer.

Gruber spent six months in prison, stemming from a felony theft conviction in 2000. Gruber pleaded guilty to stealing a rental car, and he was originally sentenced to probation and restitution. However, Gruber violated his probation when he did not make payments toward the $11,000 court-ordered restitution, and he missed several court appearances. His probation was revoked in 2004 and that's when he was sent to prison.

Kansas Department of Corrections mug shot of Andrew Gruber, a Tonganoxie man who founded two nonprofit organizations, the Purple Heart Veterans Foundation and Kids vs. Cancer. Gruber spent six months in prison, stemming from a felony theft conviction in 2000. Gruber pleaded guilty to stealing a rental car, and he was originally sentenced to probation and restitution. However, Gruber violated his probation when he did not make payments toward the $11,000 court-ordered restitution, and he missed several court appearances. His probation was revoked in 2004 and that's when he was sent to prison.

A Tonganoxie-based nonprofit, the Purple Heart Veterans Foundation, has been sued in federal court by the Military Order of the Purple Heart — founded in 1932 — for trademark infringement, according to documents obtained by the Journal-World.

The lawsuit, which was filed Friday in U.S. District Court, is the latest of potential issues with the charity highlighted in recent weeks by a Journal-World investigation.

The lawsuit’s main allegations against the Purple Heart Veterans Foundation include:

• “Repeated use of the Purple Heart trademark in a misleading manner to divert consumers by attracting them through confusingly similar names and logos.”

• Usage of “the website www.purpleheart-donations.org to advertise their services and to collect money.”

• Usage of the “Purple Heart trademark to draw attention from people entering large retail stores such as Walmart and has then used the trademark to further solicit in person donations from such people.”

The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction against the nonprofit from using the Purple Heart name and registered logos. The Military Order of the Purple Heart is being represented by the Kansas City, Mo.-based law firm Berkowitz Oliver. Attorneys involved in the lawsuit were not immediately available for comment.

Several analysts from nonprofit watchdog groups expressed concerns about the local charity and its director, Andrew Gruber, in two recent Journal-World articles. Analysis of the foundation’s IRS documents showed that only 11 cents of every $1 donated to the group — which has been seen soliciting donations in front of a local Walmart and Dillon’s store — actually goes to support armed services veterans. In addition, Gruber spent six months in a Kansas prison after pleading guilty to stealing a rental car. Gruber had also been paying a fundraising company, run by his brother Scott Gruber, who also had several criminal convictions.

Gruber had stopped responding to Journal-World inquiries, but discussed the lawsuit and his foundation on Wednesday.

Gruber said he wasn’t aware of the Military Order of the Purple Heart when he founded his organization in 2009 and didn’t intend to deceive anyone with his organization’s soliciting and marketing practices.

He’s aware of the lawsuit, and he said that because his nonprofit has few financial resources he expects he’ll soon dissolve the foundation. Gruber also founded another nonprofit, Kids vs. Cancer, which is operated by another brother, Steven Gruber, in Texas. Andrew said that he plans on transferring leadership of that organization to Steven.

The Kansas Attorney General’s Office had been contacted by the Journal-World, as the office has the authority to file a restraining order against a nonprofit if anyone involved in soliciting funds has been convicted of theft. Jeff Wagaman, spokesman for the attorney general, said his office was aware of Gruber’s case but would not make any further comments.

Spokespeople for both Walmart and Dillon’s have not returned repeated calls from the Journal-World asking whether Gruber’s foundation has been banned from soliciting in front of their stores.

Gruber said he took issue with those who believe he is operating a scam, and he said information brought to light by the Journal-World’s investigation “kind of opened my eyes.”

Gruber said he meant well in his charitable endeavors, but “didn’t have the proper skills to get it done.”

Comments

Frank Smith 2 years, 7 months ago

Gruber got convicted of a felony when he was just 20, in 2000. There's next to zero chance that the guy is a vet, as his only chance for service would have been in Clinton's Desert Storm or whatever he called it, an air war. He certainly didn't get in after that, with a felony on his record. By the time they were ready to take losers like him, he was getting his parole violated.

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Kontum1972 2 years, 7 months ago

Mac Gruber...isnt that a spy movie?

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MarcoPogo 2 years, 7 months ago

Speaking of charities, would anyone like to donate some money to my new venture - The March of Super Dimes?

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bootlegger 2 years, 7 months ago

Was this the outfit that was standing in frontof Walmart; collecting money? recently

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50YearResident 2 years, 7 months ago

Isn't it a criminal offense to run a fund raiser under false information? It may not be the case here, but if it were, I think charges should be brought. It seems to be so easy now to seperate a fool from his money, or even, a believer in a cause, from his money too.

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somedude20 2 years, 7 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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Keith Richards 2 years, 7 months ago

Gruber is back with a different name, again! We can tell because you spelling is horrible!

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2girls1cup 2 years, 7 months ago

It is obvious everyone that has something bad to say has not bothered to do any research on anyother charities. So I took the liberty of digging up dirt for you. Now do two wrongs make a rite. No definately not. However have any of you took time to contact the VA Hospital in Leavenworth and Topeka and spoke with head of Voluntary services to find out what they " Elliot Kid" think of the accused, probably not. So next time an article comes out stating theres nothing illegal but is filled with opinions and assumptions maybe you will actualy take time away from playing Dungeons and Dragons to do your own research.

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billbodiggens 2 years, 7 months ago

I know that picture on the front page with this article. It is a picture of the courtroom in Garden City. That's where Hickock and Smith were tried for the Clutter murders. What's that got to do with the article?

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Kontum1972 2 years, 7 months ago

and Gruber probably never served.....take him over to the Amvets or Am legion and drop him off for a visit...i am sure the Vets there will straighten him out...

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geekin_topekan 2 years, 7 months ago

"Gruber also founded another nonprofit, Kids vs. Cancer, which is operated by another brother, Steven Gruber, in Texas. Andrew said that he plans on transferring leadership of that organization to Steven." ++++ Transfer everything to a relative and blow town? That's what a scammer would do.

I wonder what these guys will do, if anything at all.

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cowboy 2 years, 7 months ago

"Gruber said he wasn’t aware of the Military Order of the Purple Heart when he founded his organization in 2009 and didn’t intend to deceive anyone with his organization’s soliciting and marketing practices. "

Anyone who has had any contact with a wounded vet would know about this organization. This guy is such a scammer. Watch closely for the next con to come out of the Gruber Brothers Flim Flam machine.

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