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Felonies Filed Against NPO President

An officer of a Florida-based nonprofit was charged with two felonies, for submitting false information on a document and failure to register as a charitable organization while paying board members but claiming no compensation to officers or key employees, according to state charity regulators.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), which regulates charities in the Sunshine State, issued a warrant affidavit charging Richard Russo, chairman of Vietnam and All Veterans of Brevard, Inc., with two third-degree felonies.

The charity was founded in 1985 and runs a temporary shelter for homeless veterans in Melbourne, Fla. Russo also chairs the annual Florida Vietnam and All Veterans Reunion in Melbourne and is manager of the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall, a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.

A bank review by FDACS showed four $500 checks were issued to Suzanne Russo as a monthly stipend from February 2020 to April 2020, and records from 2020 also showed multiple employees were paid salaries, Christmas bonuses or bonuses for passing inspections. The organization, based in Cocoa, Fla., about 50 miles east of Orlando, also failed to re-register with FDACS from 1997 to 2020. State law requires charities to register annually if they solicit donations in the state.

Vietnam and All Veterans of Brevard, Inc. reported total revenue of about $400,000 on its most recent federal Form 990 with net assets of about $40,000. That was for the fiscal year ending December 2019, available via Candid, filed in November 2020. Fundraising events accounted for $215,000 of revenue and another $191,000 came via government grants.

The document lists Russo as president along with four other unpaid officers, including Anthony Stoltz, vice president; Suzanne Russo, treasurer (it’s unclear what relation, if any, to Richard Russo), and Donna Rogers, secretary. The contact page for the organization lists Richard Hickman as president, Richard Russo as vice president, Secretary Faye Nelson, Treasurer Tom Decker and Membership Coordinator Suzanne Russo.

Email messages seeking comment sentnto individuals at the organization received a reply, referring The NonProfit Times to Richard Russo’s attorney, Melbourne, Fla.-based Deana Bell. Email messages and a telephone message seeking comment were not returned by posttime.

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