St. Paul, Minn. – A school and youth group fundraising company exposed by KARE 11 for allegedly ripping off local businesses is now forbidden from operating in Minnesota.
It’s the result of a KARE 11 investigation and action by the Minnesota Attorney General.
Mike Gerken ran a company called “Moms and Dads For Kids.” The company has also gone by the name “DADS Fundraisers” and “Dine and Discounts." The businesses sold advertising on discount cards and then recruited local school and youth groups to sell the cards. The kids are supposed to keep 80 percent of the money.
But dozens of Minnesota business owners say they were ripped off when they paid hundreds of dollars to advertise with Gerken and then never heard from him again. They say no schools or youth groups ever sold the cards they paid as much as $1,000 to advertise on.
In a consent judgment signed by Gerken last week, he doesn’t admit guilt, but does agree to refrain from fundraising or selling advertising in Minnesota. He also agrees to pay back $37,000 to alleged victims. The judgment lists 46 small business owners.
Susan Michaletz, owner of Popped Corn, a popcorn shop in Minnetonka, paid Gerken $790 to advertise on a coupon card to be sold in the West Metro.
“I thought that was a great way to get a grassroots word out of who we are,” she said.
But after several months, Michaletz says the ad was never produced. She eventually took Gerken to court.
Elk River Realtor Vicky Biren also paid Gerken $790. She says she was told the card would be sold by Elk River High School athletic programs.
“He’s never produced anything,” she said.
Eventually, she too took Gerken to court and won, but she still hasn’t seen her money.
The Minnesota Attorney General started legal proceedings against Gerken in April. Attorney General Lori Swanson told KARE 11, “This seems like a scam to us.”
Biren and Michaletz tell KARE 11 they are glad someone is holding Gerken accountable. Biren remains skeptical she will ever get her money back.