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Veterans Support Organization founder: Group is legitimate

South Florida veteran accuses organization of using fake vets to raise money

A local veteran put the spotlight on a local charity after he felt a worker was posing as a veteran.
A local veteran put the spotlight on a local charity after he felt a worker was posing as a veteran.

PALM CITY, Fla. – The founder of the Veterans Support Organization, Richard Van Houten, is responding to allegations made by a South Florida veteran that his group is using fake veterans to raise money.

On June 22, a South Florida veteran contacted Local 10 News about a confrontation he had outside a Plantation grocery store with a veterans' fundraiser group. He claimed the group, Veterans Support Organization, was using fake veterans to raise money for programs.

Andy Rubenstein claimed the men fundraising were not wearing proper military gear and could not answer his questions. The confrontation eventually led to the group packing up and leaving the location.

Van Houten spoke to Local 10 News at his Palm City location, where he defended the organization he founded in 1999.

"It gives veterans fundraising jobs and donates money to other groups," Van Houten said.

Van Houten said the organization was started in Virginia after he got out of the service, and it grew to several states very quickly -- at one point pulling in millions of dollars.

On its website,the Veterans Support Organization claims that donations go to housing and other types of assistance to veterans. Over the years, Van Houten said the organization grew bigger than he could handle, and there were missteps. He said it no longer operates in other states anymore.

The state attorney's office in Tallahassee told Local 10 News it is investigating consumer allegations about the organization. Van Houten said he is an open book.

"We have been here seven years," he said. "We have made minor mistakes, and we have corrected them."

Van Houten said the organization is monitored by the Florida Department of Agriculture.

Click here for more information on the organization.

Follow Neki Mohan on Twitter @NekiMohan

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