east palestine ohio

Preliminary Injunction Issued in East Palestine Donations Case

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio – A preliminary injunction has been issued against Michael Peppel and his Ohio Clean Water Fund for soliciting money under the guise of aiding East Palestine residents, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced Wednesday.

Peppel claimed to be collecting donations on behalf of Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley to provide residents of East Palestine with emergency aid and bottled water after the Norfolk Southern train derailment, a lawsuit filed by Yost’s office alleges.

“This scam capitalized on a disaster and took advantage of good-hearted givers,” Yost said in a news release. “I’m still fuming about it, and we’re going to hold him accountable.”

Yost’s initial lawsuit and request for a temporary restraining order alleged that Peppel and others have pocketed at least $131,000 of the roughly $141,000 raised from more than 3,000 donors.  

The preliminary injunction, issued in the Columbiana County Court of Common Pleas:

  • Requires Ohio Clean Water Fund, Peppel and anyone else working with them to remain in compliance with the court’s temporary restraining order pending the final outcome of this action.
  • Protects remaining funds by requiring Ohio Clean Water Fund within 21 days to disburse the remaining money, $20,321.91, to Ohio Clean Water Fund’s legal counsel to be held in escrow pending the final outcome of the action.
  • Requires Peppel to pay $25,000 to his legal counsel within 21 days to be held in escrow pending the final outcome of the court action.

In April, representatives of Second Harvest Food Bank complained to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office that they had not authorized the partnership cited by Peppel in soliciting contributions via mass emails and text messages, and had twice asked him to stop advertising the nonexistent partnership. Only then did Peppel pay $10,000 – 7% of what he collected – to the food bank, Yost’s office said.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.