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FUND-RAISING FIRM HIT BY STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL

A fund-raising firm in Cheektowaga whose solicitors allegedly misrepresented themselves as state troopers was slapped with a restraining order this week.

The firm, DRD Enterprises Inc., has solicited money from hundreds of small businesses over the last month on behalf of the New York Corrections and Youth Services Association.

While that association is a legitimate, non-profit organization, DRD's representatives told businesses they were state troopers or members of other local police departments, said Patricia A. Pancoe, an assistant State Attorney General.

The firm's local manager, Nick J. Braia, was arrested last month by State Police investigators and charged with criminal impersonation and scheming to defraud.

At least two of the firm's solicitors also were not registered with the Department of State, Ms. Pancoe said.

DRD, which is based in Liverpool, near Syracuse, contracted with the corrections association in February to raise money for it by persuading businesses to pay for advertisements in a "patron booklet" that would include information on drug abuse.

DRD keeps 65 percent of the money it raises and gives the association 35 percent.

The firm's local office collected donations for the association ranging from $20 to $365 from hundreds of local small businesses, Ms. Pancoe said.

A State Police investigator working undercover asked Braia for a job in November and was told that DRD solicitors were calling businessmen and telling them they were calling "for" or "from" the State Police, Amherst police or Buffalo police, said documents filed in State Supreme Court by the Attorney General's office.

" 'Tell the businesses that you are calling 'for' or 'from' the police department and let them assume who you are,'" Braia allegedly told the investigator.

Several businessmen who later complained to State Police investigators said they believed that Braia, who also used the name Nick Cappa, was a trooper.

Anthony M. Miranda, Braia's attorney, said some of the donors contacted by Braia and his solicitors "apparently misunderstood some of the representations made to them."

"When they contacted people, they said they were working for the New York State Corrections people," Miranda said. "When they said 'New York State' people assumed they were from the State Police."

DRD has been raising funds for non-profit groups for 15 years without a complaint, he said.

The local office remains in business, soliciting money for another non-profit organization, and is finishing work on the patron book to be published for contributors to the corrections association, he said.

The case will be heard next Tuesday by State Supreme Court Justice Norman E. Joslin.

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