By John Chambless
Several residents of London Britain Township tangled with a man who said he was soliciting funds to benefit U.S. troops on July 24, leading to a confrontation and complaints filed with state police.
Several residents came to the township's July 29 Board of Supervisors meeting to voice their concerns about the incident, and to warn other area residents about Coastal Concept Sales. The for-profit company has a website that says they solicit funds to send care packages to overseas troops, but the only contact information is an e-mail address. An internet search for the company turns up a physical address in Portland, Ore., that looks like an office park with several businesses inside.
Rick Zeisloft, a township resident, circulated an e-mail to his neighbors in late July, summarizing his confrontation with a representative from Coastal Concept Sales:
"On July 24, a young man was soliciting in Chambers Rock Farm, asking for $40 for a 'care' package to be sent to our troops overseas. Being suspicious, I contacted several neighbors who expressed the same feelings. I took several pictures of the solicitor as he was leaving our community. At that point he became confrontational, obscene in his language and gestures, and threatened to 'beat you up, old man,' all in front of several neighbors who had gathered. At that point we called the state police who responded and took a report."
The group apparently operates by dropping off a representative in a community, then returning to collect him or her later. The representatives are not well dressed. They operate throughout the country, and they have left a long trail of controversy in their wake. In a June 2013 posting on Yelp.com, a commenter writes: "It appears they were formerly known as 'Freedom United Sales LLC' and 'Smartraiser LLC.' Attorney Generals from several states have issued warnings about their scams as have local law enforcement. … The person who shows up at your door soliciting a 'donation' refers you to their website for proof of their legitimacy and also provides a phone number for customer service. The phone number provided is the same one used by 'Freedom United States LLC' and 'Smartraiser LLC.'"
A page on the Coastal Concept website shows several of their employees, with identifation numbers. One of them, identified as Bo Pickard, was the man who confronted residents in London Britain.
After hearing about the confrontation, John Auerbach, the chairman of the Franklin Township Board of Supervisors, attended the township meeting on July 29 and later issued a warning that was posted on the Franklin Township website.
During the July 24 incident, Auerbach wrote, "The resident determined that the solicitor had taken a check from an elderly resident and requested that the check be returned. The solicitor did give the check back. There were further exchanges with other Coastal Concept Sales representatives that came to collect the solicitor. Foul language and unpleasant gestures were directed at a group of neighbors that had gathered outside."
The solicitors, Auerbach wrote, "carry a large stack of cash with a $50 bill on the outside, a handful of checks, and other papers. The solicitors are not well dressed for business - T-shirt and jeans."
Auerbach asked Franklin Township residents to be alert for the group, but said on Aug. 14 that the Coastal Concept representatives had not been reported in Franklin Township. He suggested that if the team does show up, residents should contact state police.
A note on the London Britain Township website states that, "Currently there is an organization that is trying to solicit funds for 'the troops.' They are not permitted in the township. Please contact the police ASAP if such an organization solicits at your property."