Metro

Lowell man charged for collecting $76,000 in donations to fake charities

A 25-year-old Lowell man was arraigned on larceny charges Friday in Middlesex Superior Court after he allegedly collected almost $76,000 in donations for fake charities, officials said.

Zachary Noonan, was charged with three counts of larceny over $250, the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

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Officers with the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office, Lowell police, and the State Police arrested Noonan Thursday in Lowell without incident, the statement said.

The alleged scam stems from Noonan’s work for an advertising company from 2012 to 2015, where he solicited donations and sold advertising space to benefit non-profit organizations. Noonan allegedly kept donors’ contact information after his time with the company ended, asking individuals and businesses to give to “false charities that he set up to intentionally sound like legitimate charity organizations,” the district attorney’s office said.

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Among the fake charities were organizations named “The Jimmy Fund for Kids,” “Volunteer Fireman,” “New England Wounded Veterans,” “New England Hunger Assoc.,” and “Northeast Amateur Athletic Union,” officials said.

The nearly $76,000 in donations that Noonan brought in over a three-year period was mostly used for his personal benefit. None of the money ever went to causes the fake charities had championed, according to the district attorney’s office.

“With the holidays approaching these types of scams become more prevalent,” Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan said in the statement. “This is an important reminder to be certain that you are making donations to only legitimate charitable organizations.”

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Woburn police began investigating the alleged scheme in February when a person who had donated $100 to “The Volunteer Fireman” was unable to reach the organization via a phone number and website provided by Noonan, according to the district attorney’s office.

“The victim discovered that the phone number was disconnected and there was actually no website,” officials said.

Clerk Magistrate Matthew Day ordered Noonan held on $100 cash bail, to be fitted with a GPS bracelet should he make bail. Day also prohibited Noonan from contacting victims of the alleged scam.

His next hearing is scheduled for Oct. 25.

Jacob Carozza can be reached at jacob.carozza@globe.com.
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