Tonganoxie nonprofit agrees not to use term ‘Purple Heart’ and will pay official organization $5,000
The Tonganoxie-based nonprofit Purple Heart Veterans Foundation can no longer use the term “Purple Heart,” according to a Consent Decree and Order filed in federal court Thursday.
The order settles a lawsuit filed by the Virginia-based Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation alleging trademark infringement by the local nonprofit, run by Tonganoxie man Andrew Gruber.
The lawsuit — filed on Aug. 26 in U.S. District Court — alleged that Gruber’s organization was deceiving donors, who might believe that Gruber’s charity was aligned with the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Established in 1932, the Military Order of the Purple Heart assists veterans who have been awarded the Purple Heart, which is a military honor given to veterans killed or wounded in combat.
In addition to discontinuing the use of the term “Purple Heart” within 15 days, Gruber — who founded his nonprofit in 2009 — also agreed to pay the Military Order of the Purple Heart $5,000.
In recent weeks, a Lawrence Journal-World investigation highlighted several concerns with Gruber and the nonprofit, mainly that only 11 cents of every dollar donated to the charity actually went to veterans. Gruber also spent six months in a Kansas prison in 2004 for felony theft.
Last week, Gruber said he planned to dissolve the nonprofit, though he did not say when. He also said that would be transferring leadership of another nonprofit he founded in 2010 — Kids vs. Cancer — to his brother Steven Gruber, who lives in Texas.
Timothy West, who acted as local attorney for the Military Order of the Purple Heart, said they were pleased that Gruber agreed to settle the issue quickly.
“He essentially consented to everything,” West said.
But they also aimed to stop Gruber from operating the nonprofit after learning of the numerous issues highlighted during the Journal-World investigation, West said.
“I think there’s a public goal,” West said. “It was important that (the Military Order of the Purple Heart) stepped up and stopped this guy.”