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State moves to shut down group accused of falsely collecting more than $350,000 for local food bank

Doorbell camera video of Farmhouse Veggie representative
Farmhouse Veggies in court
State of Tennessee and Attorney General filing against Farmhouse Veggies
Posted at 7:26 PM, Feb 15, 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Tennessee Attorney General called it a scam. And now the state is taking the next steps to shut down a group that was going door to door last year falsely claiming to be collecting donations for Second Harvest Food Bank.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates exposed recently where investigators say the hundreds of thousands of dollars really ended up and it was not with the food bank. Wednesday in court, attorneys argued over who is responsible.

Last month, NewsChannel 5 Investigates exposed how a group calling itself Farmhouse Veggies went door to door, in neighborhoods in Green Hills and Belle Meade, Brentwood and Chattanooga, supposedly collecting donations for Second Harvest Food Bank.

"It's over $350,000 within several months that people donated with the intent that it would help people," Matthew Jones with the TN Attorney General's Office, explained.

The only problem, according to investigators, was that those donations were never passed on to Second Harvest.

"The majority of that money was withdrawn as cash from ATMs," Jones continued.

Court records allege Robert Jackson, the president of Farmhouse Veggies, took approximately $187,000 in cash and also spent money on "large food purchases at restaurants, payments to multiple mobile phone service providers and repairs for luxury vehicles."

"The real issue here is, 'Where is the cash, the money? Who has it?'" Jones said.

In a Davidson County Chancery Courtroom Wednesday morning, Jones said until they can figure that out and how to get the money back, the AG wants Farmhouse Veggies prohibited from soliciting any more money and what little cash is left in the group's bank accounts to be frozen.

Jackson, the head of Farmhouse Veggies, was not in court, but Jones, an assistant Attorney General, told the judge that Jackson has agreed to both conditions and admitted he violated state law by not registering his group with the Secretary of State's Charitable Services Office before it began collecting money.

But Jackson isn't the only one in hot water.

The Attorney General's lawsuit also names Lametric Patterson — Jackson's daughter.

Her attorney denied any involvement on her part. In court documents, she argued she "has done nothing wrong. The only reason she was dragged into this is because her father listed her as a member of the Board of Directors."

The attorney argued, "There are no allegations in the verified complaint that she received financial or other compensation for soliciting, charitable funds."

And he told the judge there's no reason Patterson should be held responsible.

"There are no allegations that she had access to the bank accounts, no allegations she had received any money whatsoever."

The Attorney General's Office wants all the money returned and Farmhouse Veggies to pay at least $75,000 in fines.

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Farmhouse Veggies claimed to be collecting money for Second Harvest Food Bank, but TN Attorney General says it was a scam