Vets group that got money from Trump ran sham jobs program

DeWine in 2013 found group diverted millions from instant bingo proceeds.

A veterans organization that was recently funded by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was forced to clean house in Ohio three years ago after an investigation found it was running a sham job training program for military veterans and diverting money from instant bingo operations.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said in court filings in 2013 that AMVETS in Ohio operated largely bogus career training centers across the state to divert millions of dollars from bingo games — money that should have gone to charity under state law.

The case was settled in March 2013 when AMVETS, its affiliates and DeWine reached an agreement that included the removal of top administrative staff of AMVETS, tighter fiscal controls and new board members to oversee career counseling centers.

Ohio AMVETS Career Center, classified for tax purposes as a 501(c)(3) public charity, funded approximately 59 AMVETS posts around the state.

The Donald Trump Foundation donated $75,000 to AMVETS, a national service organization founded in 1944 to advocate for veterans. The contribution was among dozens disclosed by Trump this week to answer questions from media about how much money Trump raised for veterans at a January event and where it went. Trump listed dozens of organizations that received contributions ranging from $25,000 to $1.1 million.

The Washington Post reported that Trump did not make good on his promise to personally donate $1 million until May 24 — five months after the fundraiser.

Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks did not respond to a message seeking comment.

DeWine examined a six-year period, from Jan. 1, 2006, to May 31, 2012, for his 2013 investigation. AMVETS posts with satellite career centers made $50.28 million in net profit from the sale of instant bingo tickets during that time, and was allowed to use 75 percent of it, or $37.7 million, for any post purpose.

It was the other 25 percent that drifted outside the law. In 2003 Ohio cracked down on illegal storefront bingo parlors and tightened up rules for bingo operations at veterans’ organizations.

DeWine found that the AMVETS career centers were used to retain all of the bingo proceeds. On paper, the centers operated as a charity within AMVETS. State investigators found that the AMVETS career centers were largely idle or inoperable computer stations in AMVETS locations, and the money to fund them was on paper only.