A Kentucky-based nonprofit tied to a naval history museum has been ordered to stop fundraising in Maryland after state officials found it failed to file the required paperwork and mandatory disclosures.
An investigation of the Louisville Naval Museum Inc., which also operated under the names P-520 and the Veterans Heritage Foundation, found it was not registered to solicit charitable contributions in Maryland, a violation of the Maryland Solicitations Act, Attorney General Anthony Brown said Thursday in a statement.
The organization was told several times by the Secretary of State’s office about the registration requirement but continued fundraising activity around the Chesapeake Bay area and failed to provide mandated public disclosures, Brown said.
The cease-and-desist letter dated Oct. 23 and sent to Mark Gatton, who is listed with the Kentucky Secretary of State as vice president of the museum, lists six times between 2021 and 2023 the museum was notified about the filing requirements.
The organization was given 30 days to request a hearing to contest the cease-and-desist order, and didn’t do so, Brown said.
“Charities are required to register annually and to report specific information to the state to ensure that they are, indeed, legitimate,” Brown said. “Thorough reporting allows donors to access the materials needed to remain informed and confident that their hard-earned money is being distributed in the way that they intended.”
The Maryland Secretary of State’s Office registers and regulates charitable organizations soliciting charitable contributions in the state.
Brown and Secretary of State Susan Lee said the Louisville Naval Museum Inc. is believed to have operated aboard a vessel named the P-520 in several Chesapeake Bay towns and cities, including Annapolis, from late 2020 through early 2021; Crisfield from June 2022 through September 2022; and Baltimore from September 2022 through January 2023.
The boat is a World War II and Korean War-era crash boat used to rescue downed pilots and is the last surviving vessel of its kind from that era. It was seized by U.S. Marshals in January to settle a $92,900 debt owed by the museum to the Maritime Pastoral Training Foundation of Paducah, Kentucky.
“State reporting requirements exist to bolster the public’s confidence that donations will go towards the good work that legitimate charities do every day,” Lee said.
The address listed with the Kentucky Secretary of State’s office for the Louisville Naval Museum is for a house in a residential neighborhood in the Kentucky city. The museum has no website, and no phone number could be located. A message sent to museum officials through an Instagram page that was last updated in 2019 was not immediately returned Thursday.