CHICAGO — Over the last two years, several thousand people from across the country contributed more than $1.5 million to the National Police & Sheriff’s Coalition PAC, a political action committee based in the southwest suburbs that claims it supports pro-law enforcement political candidates.

“There are anti-law and order groups who are doing all they can to hinder the police in the performance of their duties, some even advocating violence against law enforcement,” the PAC’s website reads. “Your police and sheriffs need the support of all elected officials, and the National Police & Sheriff’s Coalition PAC is working overtime to make sure pro-police legislators are elected.”

However, a class-action lawsuit filed in November alleges that the Bridgeview-based PAC has repeatedly violated the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act by making automated and/or pre-recorded calls as part of a scheme to mislead donors. The PAC has expressly denied it is in violation of this law.

Further, a WGN Investigates analysis of the PAC’s 2021 and 2022 IRS filings found that none of the PAC’s reported expenditures went to any pro-law enforcement groups, entities or political candidates. In addition, the PAC does not appear to be registered, nor made any filings, with the Federal Election Commission.

“Instead of putting the millions of dollars raised by Defendant to work for the law enforcement officials that Defendant claims to champion, Defendant misappropriates and funnels nearly all of the funds to an array of companies fraudulently characterized as ‘expenditures,’” the lawsuit alleges.

The next hearing in the case has yet to be scheduled, federal court records show.

IRS filings show the National Police & Sheriff’s Coalition PAC was founded in December 2020 by Frank Pulciani, who joined Cook County Sheriff’s Office in 1989 and retired in 2008, according to sheriff’s office spokesman Matt Walberg. In recent years, Pulciani has worked as a fundraiser for law enforcement and first-responder-related causes.

Pulciani declined multiple interview requests and his attorney did not respond to an inquiry. In an email to WGN Investigates, a representative for the National Police & Sheriffs Coalition PAC wrote: “We take compliance very seriously at our organization and have protocols in place to ensure that we are legally compliant.”

Frank Pulciani | Cook County Sheriff’s Office photo

The class-action lawsuit was filed against the National Police & Sheriff’s Coalition PAC on Nov. 1 in U.S. District Court in Chicago. The suit alleges that the PAC was “designed to defraud consumers out of millions of dollars by soliciting so-called ‘political’ contributions through rampant violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991.”

Aside from emergency calls, the TCPA prohibits making any call to a cellphone “using an automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice without the prior express consent of the called party,” the suit states.

The number of plaintiffs in the case is not stated, but the suit alleges that the PAC “makes unsolicited prerecorded and/or soundboard technology driven calls to hundreds of thousands of Americans without prior express consent.” A single TCPA violation — that is, one unsolicited prerecorded call — can result in a fine of up to $1,500.

PACs are required to make disclosures to the IRS each quarter about contributions and expenditures.

In 2021, the PAC received contributions totaling $1,069,921, IRS records show. In that same period, the PAC spent a nearly identical amount — $1,062,851 — at 10 different companies based across the country. In the first three quarters of 2022, the National Police & Sheriff’s Coalition PAC reported that it received contributions totaling $439,115. In that same nine-month span, the PAC reported spending $379,967 at nine different companies.

The PAC did not list any expenditures to pro-law enforcement groups, entities or other political committees in the first three quarters of 2022.

The PAC reported to the IRS that its expenditures with those companies were for “fundraising, donor management, database services, direct mail services, postage,” as well as “administrative consulting, payroll and accounting, merchant processing.”

Tom Zimmerman, an attorney representing the plaintiffs in the class-action suit, said:

“We’ve researched these entities and some of them are legitimate and some of them have no presence on the Internet, no physical presence, no office location, no address that we could find, no employees that we could find. And so it’s our belief that the money is being funneled through these shell corporations somewhere.”

“Clearly, in this case, the goal of these robocalls is to raise money for a PAC under false pretenses and then pay large sums of money that PAC raises to shell corporations,” Zimmerman continued. “Where the money goes after that, we don’t know at this point. But we do know from public filings [that] it’s not going to the police, that’s for sure.”