They claimed to be collecting money for Second Harvest but TN Attorney General says it was a scam. – News Channel 5 Nashville

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — You probably know the name Second Harvest Food Bank. And you may even know that the Nashville-based nonprofit helps feed hungry folks in 46 counties around Middle Tennessee.
But what you may not know is that Second Harvest never goes door to door collecting money.
Last year though, there was a group going around neighborhoods claiming to be raising money for Second Harvest.
You may remember us warning you about these people early last summer after Second Harvest had gotten word that people were out supposedly collecting money to feed people in need. These solicitors reportedly were still out asking for donations as recently as last month.
And it turns out, they collected a lot of money.
So what happened to all of that money?
A state investigation has now found that it did not go where donors thought it was going.
The doorbell camera video shows how representatives from a Memphis-area group went door to door, collecting donations.
They stopped at Nan Gurley’s house in Brentwood.
“He wanted me to give like $1,000, like in a one-time gift,” she recalled.
We know the group also canvassed neighborhoods in Green Hills and Belle Meade as well as in Chattanooga.
“They were working for a nonprofit called Farmhouse Veggies that partnered, they said, with Second Harvest Food Bank to get food to inner-city people who didn’t have access to fresh produce,” Gurley remembers them telling her.
But Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti told NewsChannel 5 Investigates, “It’s a scam. It’s a scam.”
Skrmetti’s office along with the Secretary of State’s Division of Charitable Organizations began investigating Farmhouse Veggies and several related entities last year after hearing from both people who’d had solicitors come to their door as well as from Second Harvest who’d heard from concerned donors.
Skrmetti said the investigation found “no purchases or contributions related to any charitable purpose, much less the purpose apparently told to donors.”
“It looks like somebody just said, ‘We’re going to use the name of the respective charity, and we’re going to rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars,'” Skrmetti told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
Bank records show Farmhouse Veggies deposited more than $346,000, including checks from donors that said in the memo section, “For Second Harvest Food Bank.”
Investigators said in court documents that Robert Jackson who is listed as president of Farmhouse Veggies then withdrew approximately $187,000 in cash, and also spent money on “large food purchases at restaurants, payments to multiple mobile phone service providers and repairs for luxury vehicles.”
“Everything but helping people who need food,” Skrmetti remarked.
The Attorney General has now gone to court to get an injunction to freeze Farmhouse Veggies’ bank accounts and to stop the group from soliciting any more money.
“We want to make sure that the people who are engaged in this sort of scam can never do it again. That means their operation gets shut down and they face the consequences for it. Second, we want to get as much as that money back to the people who gave it as possible,” Skrmetti explained.
“They (Farmhouse Veggies) took advantage of a lot of people that wanted to do good,” said Nancy Keil, the president and CEO of Second Harvest.
Keil and her organization had been alerted last summer to what the group was doing, but had no idea Farmhouse Veggies had taken in so much money using Second Harvest’s name.
“It brings tears to my eyes,” she added.
When Second Harvest had gotten calls from people wondering about the solicitors, they told callers Second Harvest had nothing to do with this group.
But Second Harvest does depend on donations and, as the group often reminds donors, can provide up to four meals for every dollar donated.
So if you do the math, you realize just how many potential meals were lost.
“To think about over $300,000 not going back to the people that need that food. It’s devastating — absolutely devastating,” Keil told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
Meanwhile, Nan Gurley described her solicitors as aggressive, and told, as she remembered it, quite a sob story. But after she stepped inside and called Second Harvest, she told the people at her door no.
“The guy instantly got hostile, very angry, and said, ‘At what point in our presentation did we lose you?'” Gurley recalled.
Now, she just hopes the people behind this will be stopped.
“It really makes me angry — the injustice of it, the deceit, the reception, especially to play on people’s hearts,” Gurley said.
Robert Jackson, the president of Farmhouse Veggies, and Lametric Patterson, who’s listed in the group’s paperwork as his partner, are due in court next week on the civil case filed by the Attorney General.
As far as criminal charges, nothing has been filed yet. But we’re told that considering the amount of money involved, that a bank was involved and there’s some indication the group was also raising money in Georgia. Federal investigators may also be interested in this case.
NewsChannel5 Investigations did reach Robert Jackson on the phone. He said the state has it all wrong, but he refused to give any examples of how Farmhouse Veggies helped any charities.
If you want to help Second Harvest or any other nonprofit for that matter, give your donation to them directly. You can do that online through their website, by mail, or, for Second Harvest, you can even do it in person at their headquarters in Metro Center.

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