© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
WOSP-FM in Portsmouth is operating at reduced power. In the meantime, listen online or with the WOSU mobile app.
Health, Science & Environment

Ohio Attorney General suing 'phony' charity that claimed to collect money for East Palestine

Bubbles and a sheen appeared on the surface of Sulfer Run.
Julie Grant
The Allegheny Front
On March 13, 2023, Danny Bostwick stirred up the sediment in Sulfur Run with a blue pole. Bubbles and a sheen appeared on the surface. Photo:

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is suing a reportedly phony charity that claimed to be collecting donations for East Palestine after the disastrous train derailment there.

Those behind the charity allegedly pocketed $131,000 that had been donated to help residents of the small town on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border.

Yost’s lawsuit claims that Michael Peppel of Leetonia sought donations as Ohio Clean Water Fund, which was supposedly a nonprofit acting on behalf of Second Harvest Food Bank of Mahoning Valley. Instead of providing emergency aid and bottled water to residents of East Palestine, Peppel and others are believed to have kept the money from more than 3,000 donors.

Second Harvest Food Bank complained to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and then confronted Peppel – twice – and he eventually paid the food bank $10,000. That was only about 7 percent of the $141,000 he had reported he’d raised.

“The idea that somebody would so brazenly exploit a disastrous situation and the good hearts of people who want to help is unconscionable,” Yost said.

The fiery February derailment of dozens of Norfolk Southern train cars upended the lives of residents of East Palestine and spilled toxic chemicals into the soil and water.

A website for Ohio Clean Water Fund that no longer works, says that the fund “was launched to provide support for the forgotten Americans of East Palestine whose leaders have failed to adequately support (them)."

Yost is seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop Peppel from soliciting more donations through mass emails and text messages.

“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.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Charitable Law Section investigates claims of abuses of charitable trusts.

Allie Vugrincic has been a radio reporter at WOSU 89.7 NPR News since March 2023.