Three men have been banned from being company directors for eight years after an Insolvency Service crackdown on publishing companies that sell adverts for charity.
David Horan, 46, of Droylsden, Manchester, Carlo Abbonizio, 37, of Yeadon, Leeds, and Paul Percival, 37, of Bideford, north Devon, ran three firms that raised more than £2m from the sale of adverts but donated less than £70,000 to the charities they claimed to represent.
The Insolvency Service said the men had breached the Charities Act by failing to tell potential advertisers how much money would go to charity. Some customers thought their companies were charities.
The men were directors of Yellow Partnership and two associated companies, MPH Direct and Strawberry Educational, which all went into liquidation in February 2009.
According to the Insolvency Service, Yellow Partnership received at least £958,872 between 1 July 2007 and 31 August 2008 from payments of between £300 and £500 for adverts in publications, including a history workbook and a wall planner. It paid £47,000 to charities.
MPH received at least £444,253 over the same period and paid £18,750 to charities. Strawberry Educational received at least £634,096 and made no payments to charity.
The directors used a fourth company, McEwan Kingston Bailey, to chase debts using "improper methods" and "aggressive techniques", the Insolvency Service said.
Ken Beasley, official receiver for the Insolvency Service's public interest unit in Manchester, said: "These charity publishing scams play on people's goodwill. This is what makes this type of deception particularly insidious."