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Charity requests money for unauthorized ‘Boston Strong’ license plates

The Boston Strong mural near Kenmore Square. Attorney General Maura Healey’s office is investigating a charity organization, Boston Strong Disaster Relief, because they are selling “Boston Strong” license plates in advance of their approval by the RMV. PHOTO BY MAGGIE LEONE/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Boston Strong Disaster Relief, a non-profit charity, is taking orders for “Boston Strong” license plates, which are unauthorized by the state, to allegedly provide support for survivors of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

Boston Strong Disaster Relief claims to be a charity organization that supports the long-term needs of the survivors of the bombing and to provide education for the community, according to the mission statement on the organization’s website.

The charity’s name is based on the slogan “Boston Strong,” which was popularized in reaction to the Boston Marathon bombing in order to support victims of the attack and their families and maintain city-wide solidarity in the wake of the tragedy.

Chloe Gotsis, deputy press secretary for the Attorney General Maura Healey’s office, said in a statement that Healey will be reaching out to Boston Strong Disaster Relief because of her concerns regarding the organization’s intentions.   

“The AG’s office does not look kindly on organizations that misrepresent their support for survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing,” Gotsis said. “We understand that the license plates never went into production and the Registry did not have any pre-orders for this plate for which the organization was reportedly soliciting.”

Tim Roberts, 27, of North End, said his first thought when hearing about the license plates was that they might be part of a scam.

“I think that anytime you’re trying to claim that you represent somebody in Boston — when you’re trying to represent victims of the Boston Marathon bombing or any other type of crime — there needs to be some authorization from the City,” Roberts said.

Stanley Brick, president of Boston Strong Disaster Relief, wrote in an email wondering why the integrity of the production of the license plates was being called into question.

“Why are you escalating scrutiny to investigation ?” Brick asked. “The State has multiple offices that together … provide a system for over 22,000 MA charities.”

Brick wrote that in order for the plates to be put into production, the company needed 750 pre-paid Registry of Motor Vehicles checks and applications. Brick specified that the organization is a charity and does not collect any cash.

However, Brick said the charity did not ever sell any of the “Boston Strong” license plates, as the organization did not reach the 750 minimum pre-orders needed for the plates to be manufactured by the state.

The pre-order cost for the “Boston Strong” license plate was $40. Boston Strong Disaster Relief also suggested an additional $10 donation in the application process form, according to the organization website.

T.K. Skenderian, communications director for the Boston Athletic Association, which hosts the Boston Marathon, refused to comment on the situation.

Vincent Tseng, 28, of Brighton, said he was concerned about how the money generated from the plates could be misused and not put toward the causes donors claimed it would be.

“If the people are notified upfront about what it’s about, then I have no problem with it, personally,” Tseng said. “You could see it as exploiting a tragedy, but people generally don’t help people unless there is a tragedy.”

Tseng said he does not think taking advantage of a tragedy in order to spread your voice is necessarily a bad thing.   

“It really depends on how good you are about maintaining your integrity once you have the money, but if there is no way to hold that party accountable, then I don’t really know how to assess that.” Tseng said.

Liam Cruz Kelly, 24, of Allston, said he disapproves of Boston Strong Disaster Relief’s license plates and thinks exploiting a tragedy is one of the lowest acts one could do.

“I feel like that’s a really disingenuous act that’s exploitative of a tragedy, to use the phrase [for] the use of an organization … under the guise of charity,” he said. “I think it doesn’t represent a godly way of approaching tragedy and helping people in suffering.”

 

Samantha Day and Jordan Kimmel contributed to the reporting of this article.

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