NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The Better Business Bureau is out with a warning for people thinking about donating to more than 30 groups that have the words “Cajun Navy” in their names. They say several do not appear to be charitable organizations.
United Cajun Navy takes pride in being first on the scene in times of flooding, as they were last month in North Carolina during Hurricane Florence.
“It’s hard to get in and out of places. With this river, it’s been real rough,” said Cody Monk with United last month.
They are a non-profit, as is Cajun Navy Relief. Activated during the 2016 floods in Baton Rouge, Cajun Navy Relief sent members to the Florida Panhandle after Hurricane Michael. There, they ran into a number of groups professing affiliation with the Cajun Navy.
“Anytime I see exploitation in a disaster, it’s pitiful, and it goes beyond Cajun Navy,” said Shawn Boudreaux with Cajun Navy Relief.
In fact, there are 32 groups with the name Cajun Navy in their title on Facebook. There are 16 groups registered under various Cajun Navy names with the Louisiana Secretary of State, and 29 are listed as limited liability corporations. Three, like Cajun Navy Relief, are listed as non-profits.
“We don’t take any salary. It’s all voluntary,” said Boudreaux.
Many Cajun Navy groups solicit funds, and the Better Business Bureau is out with an advisory.
“If you are being high-pressured, that’s a good sign they may be bogus,” said Cynthia Albert with the BBB.
They also advise that if you are making a contribution that you want to be tax free, you should look for the non-profits.
Shawn Boudreaux says his Cajun Navy Relief non-profit was one of the first to register with the Secretary of State. And while he worries about fake organizations, he says 95% of those involved in Cajun Navy groups want to do good.
“I will not talk about Cajun Navy in a bad light and tarnish a good thing,” said Boudreaux.
The BBB says anyone wishing to support one of these groups should thoroughly check things out.
“Whenever there’s anything good...let’s face it, after a natural disaster you’re going to have the bogus charities pop up,” said Albert.
The State Office of Homeland Security is concerned. They say they don’t have the resources to check out these groups, but they urge people to closely examine anyone they donate to after an emergency.
We reached out to the Attorney General’s Office to see if anyone has been prosecuted for fraudulent activity. They are not aware of any.