Main Menu

Is the Cold Case Posse a charity?

I’m writing this article in an attempt to answer the question.

“The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Cold Case Posse” is registered with the State of Arizona since 2006 as a non-profit corporation with Mike Zullo as its registered agent. They are also registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3), an organization eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions (commonly called a “charity.”) Their EIN is 01-0877871.

Arizona statute 44-6551 says:

44-6551. Definitions

In this article, unless the context otherwise requires:

1. "Charitable organization" means either of the following:

(a) A person determined by the internal revenue service to be a tax exempt organization pursuant to section 501(c)(3) of the internal revenue code.

So the Cold Case Posse is a charity, both federal and state.

Why do I ask this question? I always thought that charities had to file things that the public could look at, and I certainly am interested in the financial doings of the Cold Case Posse. Usually a charity puts its financial statements in plain sight, on their web site, for example. I checked the Cold Case Posse’s web site. I looked on the Arizona Secretary of State’s web site and I couldn’t find that the Cold Case Posse was even listed as a charity there. Should they be?

Arizona statute 44-6552 states that charities must register:

44-6552. Charitable organizations; registration; late registration penalty

A. Except as provided in subsection E of this section and section 44-6553, before soliciting its first contribution, whether through a contracted fund raiser or otherwise, a charitable organization shall file a registration statement with the secretary of state in a format prescribed and adopted by the secretary of state by rule.

Under the statute, “soliciting” includes “a request of any kind for a contribution.” I think a donate button on a web site counts as a solicitation.

Subsection E doesn’t seem to apply, but 44-6553 is interesting:

The following are exempt from the registration requirements prescribed in section 44-6552:

1. This state or any counties or municipalities of this state or their agencies.

So, is the Cold Case Posse a “county agency?” It certainly has that implied by its name, but the corporate registration states that its business type is “CIVIC” and not government. I’m not an expert on Arizona law, but it certainly seems to me that the Cold Case Posse is delinquent in filing as a charity with the State of Arizona.

Charities must also file IRS Form 990 on an annual basis, and the public disclosure rule requires that the most recent 3 filings be made available for public inspection. From what I can tell, if the Cold Case Posse filed form 990 with the IRS in 2012, it would be listed be listed at Pro Publica, but I couldn’t find it, and Pro Publica appears to have a comprehensive list (the IRS provides a database of filers to press organizations). Other MSCO posse listings are there. Charities with incomes under $25,000 may file Form 990-N, but I verified at the IRS web site that the CCP hasn’t filed that.

There are exemptions to IRS filing requirements for “governmental units and affiliates of governmental units.” Those exemptions are detailed in Rev. Proc. 95-48, 1995-2 C.B. 418. In determining whether an organization is an affiliate of a governmental unit, the following factors are considered (my notes in blue in reference to the Cold Case Posse Articles of Incorporation).

(a)
The organization was created by one or more governmental units, organizations that are affiliates of governmental units, or public officials acting in their official capacity. The articles say that it is “an association of a number of citizens … who have associated together.”
(b)
The organization’s support is received principally from taxes, tolls, fines, government appropriations, or fees collected pursuant to statutory authority. Amounts received as government grants or other contract payments are not qualifying support under this paragraph. The Cold Case Posse web site says: “We are awarded no tax dollars.”

(c)
The organization is financially accountable to one or more governmental units. This factor is present if the organization is (i) required to report to governmental unit(s), at least annually, information comparable to that required by Form 990; and (ii) is subject to financial audit by the governmental unit(s) to which it reports. A report submitted voluntarily by the organization does not satisfy clause (i). Also, reports and audits pursuant to government grants or other contracts do not alone satisfy this paragraph (c). The CCP articles do not contain any language about financial accountability to any governmental unit. Note that “voluntary reports” do not satisfy the requirement.
(d)
One or more governmental units, or organizations that are affiliates of governmental units, exercise control over, or oversee, some or all of the organization’s expenditures (although it is not financially accountable to governmental units as described in paragraph (c) of this section). The CCP articles talk about being a “loyal member of the Sheriff’s Posse” and to work on “an agreed upon investigation plan” (it doesn’t say who has to agree), but there’s no mention of financial oversight.
(e)
If the organization is dissolved, its assets will (by reason of a provision in its articles of organization or by operation of law) be distributed to one or more governmental units, or organizations that are affiliates of governmental units within the meaning of section 4 of this revenue procedure. The CCP articles say that upon dissolution, any residual funds will be given to charity.

This is going to take some more digging.

, , , , ,

38 Responses to Is the Cold Case Posse a charity?

  1. avatar
    Loren July 8, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

    The Form 990 is only required of organizations with incomes greater than $25,000. If they don’t, they should still be filing a Form 990-N.

    Guidestar says the Posse was founded in 2007, and has it categorized as ‘educational.’ They have no filings available.

    Per IRS rules, the Posse is supposed to make its three most recent IRS filings available upon request. Failing to comply is grounds for a complaint.

  2. avatar
    Jim July 8, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

    Isn’t this something that could be checked with local papers? Maybe a quick e-mail to the AG?

  3. avatar
    CarlOrcas July 8, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    FYI…..I posted it before and will look for the reference when I have a minute but a non-profit that is part of/or affiliated with (forget the exact wording) a public entity is not required to file a 990 since their finances are part of the parent organization.

    That said then the Cold Case Posse’s finances should be available by a FOIA request.

    When I last looked into this I found some information in the sheriff’s budget about posses but it wasn’t specific to any posse and wasn’t clear as to what it represented.

  4. avatar
    CarlOrcas July 8, 2013 at 2:03 pm #

    CarlOrcas:

    When I last looked into this I found some information in the sheriff’s budget about posses but it wasn’t specific to any posse and wasn’t clear as to what it represented.

    Ah….I didn’t look far enough. I use GuideStar and looked for the Cold Case Posse but not the others that you found on ProPublica. Clearly some of the posses….especially the large ones…..have a different notion of their responsibility to the public than Zullo does.

  5. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy July 8, 2013 at 2:08 pm #

    The following Arizona Posses filed form 990 in 2012:

    M C S O P C A Posse
    Community Services Posse
    Desert Foothills Sheriffs Posse
    Yuma County Mounted Posse
    Emergency Response Posse Inc.
    Fountain Hills Sheriffs Posse
    Maricopa County Sheriffs Anthem Posse Inc.
    Maricopa County Sheriffs Office Jeep Posse Incorporated
    Navajo County Sheriffs Posse Inc
    Sheriffs Mounted Posse of Maricopa County
    Sheriffs Posse of Westbrook Village Inc
    Tombstone Marshals Volunteer Posse
    Wes Pinal County Mounted Sheriff Posse
    Yazipan County Jeep Posse Inc
    Yuma County Mounted Posse

    CarlOrcas: FYI…..I posted it before and will look for the reference when I have a minute but a non-profit that is part of/or affiliated with (forget the exact wording) a public entity is not required to file a 990 since their finances are part of the parent organization.

  6. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy July 8, 2013 at 2:11 pm #

    Form 990-N filers can be searched directly on the IRS web site.

    I searched by EIN, and came up empty for the CCP.

    Loren: The Form 990 is only required of organizations with incomes greater than $25,000. If they don’t, they should still be filing a Form 990-N.

  7. avatar
    Sactosintolerant July 8, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

    That EIN was originally issued to Harrison Bounel’s charity.

  8. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy July 8, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    The Form 990 instructions say of this exemption:

    7. A governmental unit or affiliate of a governmental unit described in Rev. Proc. 95-48, 1995-2 C.B. 418…

    The procedure referenced is here:

    http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-tege/rp1995-48.pdf

    Pretty dense.

    CarlOrcas: FYI…..I posted it before and will look for the reference when I have a minute but a non-profit that is part of/or affiliated with (forget the exact wording) a public entity is not required to file a 990 since their finances are part of the parent organization.

  9. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy July 8, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

    Thanks to the commenters so for for their observations and references. I have made a significant revision to the last part of the article, beginning with Form 990 and continuing to the end.

  10. avatar
    Reality Check July 8, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

    A complaint was filed with the IRS concerning the CCP’s tax exempt status last year. It was covered in an article here. http://www.obamaconspiracy.org/2012/06/cold-case-posse-tax-exempt-status-attacked/

    I am not sure if anything ever happened as a result of the complaint or if we would know any action were taken short of revocation of the 501(c)(3) status. .

  11. avatar
    CarlOrcas July 8, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: The following Arizona Posses filed form 990 in 2012:

    When I have some time I will look through the Arizona Corporation Commission and Secretary of State websites to see if there are differences in how these posses are set up as opposed to the Cold Case Posse.

  12. avatar
    misha marinsky July 8, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    Calling the Cold Case Posse a charity, is charitable.

    Calling Zullo a charlatan, is charitable.

  13. avatar
    CarlOrcas July 8, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: Pretty dense.

    That’s an understatement!!

    I can see places where the CCP doesn’t seem to qualify and then places were it might.

    I do wonder if the CCP ever asked the IRS for a letter of determination. I know some non-profits keep copies to give people in case they have questions about the status and the deductibility of their dues or contributions.

  14. avatar
    CarlOrcas July 8, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

    misha marinsky:

    Calling Zullo a charlatan, is charitable.

    But accurate.

  15. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy July 8, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

    One of the great ironies of the Cold Case Posse Articles of Incorporation is this:

    No substantial part of the activities of the corporation shall be the carrying on propaganda…

    misha marinsky: Calling the Cold Case Posse a charity, is charitable.

  16. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy July 8, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

    My understanding is that we wouldn’t know anything from the IRS unless they took an action. The 2012 complaint centered on Zullo’s getting money for the sale of a book that was a work product of the Posse. One of the things requested in that complaint is the payment of an excise tax on the book profits. His taking the money seems to be a problem both for the Posse’s tax-exempt status and for any claims it might make to be an affiliate of a governmental unit. It’s also a violation of their corporate charter.

    Reality Check:
    A complaint was filed with theIRS concerning the CCP’s tax exempt status last year. It was covered in an article here. http://www.obamaconspiracy.org/2012/06/cold-case-posse-tax-exempt-status-attacked/

    I am not sure if anything ever happened as a result of the complaint or if we would know any action were taken short of revocation of the 501(c)(3) status. .

  17. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy July 8, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

    In a very birtheresque way, I wrote this article without ever bothering to check the CCP web site for the filings.

    That has been remedied, and they aren’t there. In fact everything on the site refers to Obama.

  18. avatar
    CarlOrcas July 8, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    In a very birtheresque way, I wrote this article without ever bothering to check the CCP web site for the filings.

    That has been remedied, and they aren’t there. In fact everything on the site refers to Obama.

    I checked it a long time ago and found it to be a pretty cheesy piece of work. I can’t tell how old the sounds bites with Zullo are….can you?

    I particularly liked the Photos section with the helicopter, marked unit and swat team…..as if they had something to do with the Cold Case Posse.

    Notice that unlike some of the other posses there is no mention of any other members…..other than Commander Zullo.

  19. avatar
    Majority Will July 8, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

    CarlOrcas: Notice that unlike some of the other posses there is no mention of any other members…..other than Commander Zullo.

    Maybe it’s the Deadbeat Parents list.

  20. avatar
    Loren July 8, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: In fact everything on the [CCP] site refers to Obama.

    That’s not surprising. The CCP domain (mcsoccp.org) was created on December 9, 2011. Three months after Arpaio tasked the CCP with its Birther investigation.

    The CCP’s Facebook page was created on October 3, 2011. Other than some general posts about Arpaio’s office, all the posts about the CCP are Obama-related.

    Their Twitter feed has one post, dated October 3, 2011.

    That one Twitter post refers to their “new” website, coldcaseposse.org. Which doesn’t exist anymore.

    Their blog (http://mcsoccp.blogspot.com/) has one post, dated October 3, 2011.

    Basically, the Maricopa County Cold Case Posse had zero web presence prior to its investigation into Obama’s birth certificate.

  21. avatar
    Northland10 July 8, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

    Since both Charity Navigator and Guidestar mention that the Cold Case Posse are exempt from the 990 due to being a associated with a government, I figure that was part of the IRS determination. I would think this may open them to am FOIA request, especially on financial matters.

  22. avatar
    roadburner July 9, 2013 at 8:06 am #

    where’s the financial declaration?

    we have a right to know!

    only those with something to hide, etc….yadda….yadda

    crap! i’ve been reading too much birfoonery lately 😀

  23. avatar
    Sactosintolerant July 9, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

    roadburner:
    where’s the financial declaration?

    we have a right to know!

    only those with something to hide, etc….

    So you’re saying Arpaio Release Your Records?

  24. avatar
    Andrew Vrba, PmG July 9, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    In fact everything on the site refers to Obama.

    I suspect that they called it the “Cold Case Posse” because the name “Get that uppity BOY out of the WHITE house posse” doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as well.

  25. avatar
    Majority Will July 9, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

    Sactosintolerant: So you’re saying Arpaio Release Your Records?

    arpaioreleaseyourrecords.com is available.

  26. avatar
    Patrick McKinnion July 9, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

    Andrew Vrba, PmG: I suspect that they called it the “Cold Case Posse” because the name “Get that uppity BOY out of the WHITE house posse” doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as well.

    Pretty much so, yes

  27. avatar
    Andrew Vrba, PmG July 9, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

    Glad to have you back Patrick!
    Hope everything is alright.

  28. avatar
    Black Lion July 9, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

    Well, it seems like one of our favorite fake newsites is pimping the Posse and their alleged investigations….

    http://www.worldtribune.com/2013/07/08/forensic-findings-on-obamas-birth-certificate-a-100-percent-forgery-no-doubt-about-it/

    Forensic findings on Obama’s birth certificate: ‘A 100 percent forgery, no doubt about it’
    Special to WorldTribune.com

    By Grace Vuoto

    There is a problem with President Barack Obama’s long-form birth certificate: It’s a forgery, say multiple forensic experts who have examined it. A report detailing the evidence will soon be presented to Congress.

    On April 27, 2011 the White House released Mr. Obama’s long-form birth certificate in an attempt to quell a public firestorm over the validity of the shorter version he provided prior to his 2008 election. A group of concerned citizens in Arizona suspected the Certificate of Live Birth produced in 2011 by the administration was fabricated; they asked Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County to investigate.

    “We have obtained an affidavit from a certified document analyzer, Reed Hayes, that states the document is a 100 percent forgery, no doubt about it,” said Cold Case Posse Lead Investigator Lt. Mike Zullo in an exclusive interview with WorldTribune.

    This is a key development, asserts Lt. Zullo, because Mr. Hayes is a certified handwriting analyst and forensic document examiner who worked repeatedly for Perkins Coie, a reputable law firm, and was deemed a dependable professional in their legal cases. Moreover, Perkins Coie has defended Mr. Obama in his legal jousts on the birth certificate matter over the past five years.

    “Mr. Obama’s operatives cannot discredit him,” said Lt. Zullo. “Mr. Hayes has been used as the firm’s reliable expert. The very firm the president is using to defend him on the birth certificate case has used Mr. Hayes in their cases.” In addition, Mr. Hayes is a Democrat whose business is based in Hawaii. He cannot easily be accused of having a political axe to grind in this matter, explains Lt. Zullo.

  29. avatar
    Dr Kenneth Noisewater July 9, 2013 at 11:32 pm #

    Majority Will: arpaioreleaseyourrecords.com is available.

    So is MikeZullosHouseofGriftcakes.com

    Has a catchy sound to it.

  30. avatar
    Majority Will July 9, 2013 at 11:51 pm #

    Dr Kenneth Noisewater: So is MikeZullosHouseofGriftcakes.com

    Has a catchy sound to it.

    Now with more layers!

  31. avatar
    Andrew Vrba, PmG July 10, 2013 at 12:46 am #

    Majority Will: Now with more layers!

    Griftcakes…sound like they taste of Catfood and failure.

  32. avatar
    Majority Will July 10, 2013 at 12:53 am #

    Andrew Vrba, PmG: Griftcakes…sound like they taste of Catfood and failure.

    With the unmistakable odor of shame and desperation.

  33. avatar
    Butterfly Bilderberg July 10, 2013 at 8:27 am #

    Kind of ironic that the CCP has failed to abide by the law governing nonprofits. The Feathered Bastard at the Phoenix New Times might be interested in pursuing a story such as this.

  34. avatar
    Majority Will July 10, 2013 at 8:52 am #

    Butterfly Bilderberg:
    Kind of ironic that the CCP has failed to abide by the law governing nonprofits.The Feathered Bastard at the Phoenix New Times might be interested in pursuing a story such as this.

    Allegedly. Fair is fair.

  35. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy July 10, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

    I’m going to pursue the story a little more myself, but the New Times Blogs is a good idea.

    Butterfly Bilderberg: Kind of ironic that the CCP has failed to abide by the law governing nonprofits. The Feathered Bastard at the Phoenix New Times might be interested in pursuing a story such as this.

  36. avatar
    Ellen July 11, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

    According to this site:

    http://creepynews.blogspot.com/2013/07/breaking-arpaio-finds-man-who-forged.html?showComment=1373569254063#c3367276793905039844

    The Globe tabloid newspaper is reporting that Sheriff Joe will be holding a news conference on July 17.

    Has anybody here heard of that? Or, as I suspect (it happens frequently), the Globe story was an old issue of the Globe, a year or more ago, and that the July 17 was a news conference given on July 17 of last year or the year before.

    Can anyone help with this?

  37. avatar
    Ellen July 11, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

    Replying to my own post. I find that indeed the issue of the Globe referred to is the one of late June 2012 and that the press conference referred to was the one of July 2012.

    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-bloggers/2900112/posts

    Sorry to disturb.

  38. avatar
    CarlOrcas July 11, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    Ellen:
    Replying to my own post. I find that indeed the issue of the Globe referred to is the one of late June 2012 and that the press conference referred to was the one of July 2012.

    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-bloggers/2900112/posts

    Sorry to disturb.

    Don’t feel bad. They were literally orgasmic over at ORYR until they figured it out.