* By Jeff Testerman and John Martin St. Petersburg Times *
IRS documents list Howard Bonifacio as head of the New Mexico chapter of the U.S. Navy Veterans Association. The home address listed for him, 388 Boutz Road in Las Cruces, is fictitious and an empty field, the Attorney General’s Office found.
New Mexico has ordered the U.S. Navy Veterans Association to cease and desist all operations there, having found that the addresses listed for two of its state chapter officers do not exist.
Nor could the office of New Mexico Attorney General Gary King find a trace of either man.
Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Korsmo wrote to the group on April 1: “Since the addresses you provided are fictional, unless you are able to provide me with a showing of legitimate activity by this organization holding itself out as having a charitable purpose in New Mexico, you are on notice that you are not lawfully registered according to the (state’s) Charitable Solicitations Act … and may be in violation of a number of substantive provisions of the Act as well.
“Unregistered organizations are prohibited from soliciting or operating in our state.”
Asked for comment, the Navy Veterans general counsel, Ohio lawyer Helen MacMurray, provided no explanation for the “fictional” addresses but said the nonprofit intended to respond to the attorney general’s letter.
MacMurray said by e-mail that she did not regard Korsmo’s letter as taking action against the Navy Veterans. “It is quite obvious (Korsmo) is in a fact gathering mode. The chapter has always operated lawfully in New Mexico and will continue to do so.”
The New Mexico chapter is one of 41 state affiliates of the U.S. Navy Veterans Association that were the subject of a St. Petersburg Times investigation published last month.
Formed in Tampa and granted tax-exempt status by the IRS in 2002, the Navy Veterans maintains that it has grown to more than 66,000 members with annual income of more than $22 million.
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