The Rundown

‘I’m mad as hell;’ Ohio AG Yost sues scam charity that pocketed donations meant for East Palestine residents

By: - April 12, 2023 4:50 am

Photo of the East Palestine train derailment from the U.S. EPA.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is suing a scam charity that claimed to be collecting thousands of dollars of donations for East Palestine residents after the Norfolk Southern train derailment on Feb. 3 spilled toxic chemicals, including vinyl chloride.

The lawsuit, filed Monday, alleges Ohio Clean Water Fund was acting on behalf of Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley to give resident emergency aid and bottled water when in reality no partnership ever existed. 

“The idea that somebody would so brazenly exploit a disaster situation and the good hearts of people who want to help is unconscionable,” Yost said. “I’m mad as hell about this, and we’re going to make sure this sham charity gets shut down.”

Ohio Clean Water Fund was formed as a limited liability company in March 2023 by Leetonia resident Mike Peppel, but the IRS has not recognized them as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. Ohio Clean Water’s website was not working, as of Tuesday afternoon. 

Peppel and others have pocketed at least $131,000 of the roughly $141,000 raised from more than 3,000 donors.  The remaining $10,000 was paid after Second Harvest Food Bank’s executive director demanded Ohio Clean Water stop saying a partnership existed between the organizations.

Representatives of Second Harvest Food Bank complained to Yost’s office that they had not authorized the partnership with Ohio Clean Water Fund, and Yost is seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop Peppel from engaging in more charitable solicitations.

“Here’s a message for anybody else who might hope to profit from the situation in East Palestine: Don’t even think about it,” Yost said.

Follow OCJ Reporter Megan Henry on Twitter.



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Megan Henry
Megan Henry

Megan Henry is a reporter for the Ohio Capital Journal and has spent the last five years reporting on various topics including education, healthcare, business and crime at The Columbus Dispatch, part of the USA Today Network.