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Alleged sham charity to donate $131,000 to East Palestine after settlement

The Ohio Clean Water Fund will donate $131,000 to benefit the residents of East Palestine, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced.

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — An alleged sham charity accused of only donating a small portion of funds raised to East Palestine, Ohio, will pay $131,000 to the recovery efforts in the Columbiana County village, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced on Wednesday.

The payment comes as a part of a settlement the state reached with the Ohio Clean Water Fund, which is accused of raising $141,000 on behalf of the Second Harvest Food Bank to provide bottled water and emergency aid to the residents of East Palestine following the February train derailment disaster. A lawsuit filed by Yost alleges that the food bank had not given OCWF permission to fundraise on its behalf and that the "sham charity" had pocketed at least $131,000 of the donated funds, sending only $10,000 to the food bank.

“I stand by my word to fight for the community of East Palestine,” Yost said in a statement. “We sued to make sure the contributions improperly solicited from well-intentioned donors get into the hands of people who will use them for their intended purposes. Our fight isn’t over, but this is a win.”

Included in the settlement is a dismissal of the claims against the OCWF and one of its board members, Patrick Lee. Additionally, the Ohio Clean Water Fund must pay $131,904.88, including $116,904.88 in restitution and $15,000 in civil penalties. The Ohio Clean Water Fund must dissolve as a result of the settlement, while Lee is barred from being a board member of or soliciting money for a charity in the future.

Recovered funds will be disbursed to the Second Harvest Food Bank.

Meanwhile, Yost’s lawsuit remains against OCWF creator Michael Peppel remains active.

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