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AG Yost Recovers Donations from Phony Charity Claiming to Benefit East Palestine


(EAST PALESTINE, Ohio) — Under a settlement reached with the Ohio Clean Water Fund, the sham charity must turn over more than $131,000 in pocketed donations so the money truly does benefit East Palestine residents, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced today.

“I stand by my word to fight for the community of East Palestine,” AG Yost said. “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.”

Yost’s initial lawsuit alleged that the Ohio Clean Water Fund (OCWF), while claiming to be operating on behalf of Second Harvest Food Bank, raised more than $141,000 to provide bottled water and emergency aid to the residents of East Palestine following the February train derailment disaster.

The food bank had not given OCWF permission to fundraise on its behalf, and Yost’s lawsuit revealed that the “charity” had pocketed at least $131,000 of the donated funds, while sending only $10,000 to the food bank.

The settlement includes a dismissal of the claims against the OCWF and one of its board members, Patrick Lee.

Under the agreement:

  • 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.
  • Lee is barred from being a board member of or soliciting money for a charity in the future.
Yost’s lawsuit remains active against OCWF creator Michael Peppel as the office works to finalize details of an agreement that will protect the charitable sector from any similar misconduct by Peppel and others involved in this scheme.

The Attorney General’s Office plans to disburse recovered funds to Second Harvest Food Bank, the state beneficiary.

Ohioans who suspect misuse of charitable funds or fraudulent fundraising activities should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or

Kelly May: 614-813-7419

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