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POSTAL INSPECTORS: THE SILENT SERVICE
An Exhibit at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum
 
Smithsonian National Postal Museum
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BILKING THE CHARITIES




  License plate with dollar signs on face of design
The Koolishe's scam involved the mailing of eight million miniature license plates
 

Americans have long supported a variety of organizations with their charitable contributions. From time to time, unscrupulous individuals have taken advantage of that generosity. Among those using a charity front to steal money were the Koolish family. In the early 1940s, members of the family began conducting unsolicited mailings for authentic charities and keeping a large proportion of the funds they received for themselves.

One charity so abused by the family was the Disabled American Veterans. In 1943, the Koolishes mailed eight million miniature license plates attached to key chains to people across the country. The mailing indicated that the funds were for disabled veterans. But the organization received a mere six-percent of the profits from that mailing. In 1949, the Disabled American Veterans organization purchased the right to conduct their own mailings from the Koolishes, and were shocked to see their profits skyrocket from a few hundred thousand dollars to 1.8 million.

Another charitable organization, the Sister Elizabeth Kenny Foundation, was bilked of at least $12 million in donations by the Koolishes in the 1950s. In 1963, two members of the Koolish family, and a few associates, were successfully charged with mail fraud based upon the concealment of donations from the Sister Kenny Foundation. Abraham L. Koolish and his son David Koolish were both sentenced on September 13, 1963, to ten years in prison. They had to pay a $17,000 fine and about $16,000 in court costs. Four other individuals were sentenced to terms ranging from a year of probation to ten years in jail.

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