BY Oren Yaniv • NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Good-hearted New Yorkers who donate their used cars to charity may be being taken for a ride, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday.
Announcing a sweeping probe of hanky-panky in the vehicle-donation business, Cuomo said some charities appear to be pocketing the proceeds from car sales instead of helping the needy.
"This is a very popular scam," Cuomo said. "We had a lot of complaints recently."
His office sued one charity - Feed The Hungry, Inc. - for allegedly diverting money meant for the homeless into the pockets of director Nicholas Cascone, Jr.
And Cuomo subpoenaed 15 other organizations and individuals, including staples of radio ads and city billboards like Kars 4 Kids, Lechaim for Life and Cars that Help.
The organizations solicit used cars and then sell them, supposedly using the profits to help disabled kids, the blind and breast cancer research.
Cuomo said bogus charities practice "a double scam" because, they are cheating the donors who think they are helping a cause, and then enjoy tax breaks due to their not-for-profit status.
Cuomo stressed that many charities are above board, but urged the kindhearted to be cautious and do some research.
Well-known organizations like the Red Cross, the Boy and Girl Scouts and Goodwill accept car donations.
"We encourage the generosity of New Yorkers," Cuomo said. But "we want to make sure the charities they are using are reliable."
Feed The Hungry, he said, was not.
Cuomo charged Cascone gave away only 1.8% of the $430,000 in donations he collected since 2002 to help the homeless.
The charity's website, which allegedly lied about the number of meals it funded for the hungry, was taken down when the organization learned it was under investigation, the AG's office said.
Cascone invoked his Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination and refused to answer questions 150 times during the investigation, Cuomo's office said.
The lawsuit seeks to dissolve the charity and distribute its assets.
Donors who suspect they have been a victim of charitable solicitation fraud should contact the Attorney General's office at www.ag.ny.gov or (212) 416-8402.
I can't find any IRS or NY State information on Lechaim for Life, but I'm told it is a Chabad organization.
Like Kars4Kids / Oorah, it claims to be helping all children and nothing on its website gives any indication it is a haredi organization.
Oorah issued a statement yesterday regarding the AG's subpoenas:
Kars4Kids Applauds NYS Car-Donation Investigation
“Kars4Kids applauds the gubernatorial candidate’s investigation,” said Yehudah Meth, a spokesman for the national not-for-profit organization. “Indeed, we think it’s long overdue. The Attorney General’s office is doing its job. The end result will be the elimination of illegitimate organizations who give a bad name to the car-donation process.
The investigation didn’t come as news to Kars4Kids—only the press release lumping it, unfairly, with other organizations.
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“Kars4Kids was served nearly half a year ago, on January 13, 2010, and we fully cooperated with the investigation,” said Meth. “We gave the Attorney General’s office everything they asked for and we expect that will be the end of it.”
As a result of the Attorney General’s investigation, a lawsuit was filed charging that Nicholas Cascone, Jr., the director of “Feed the Hungry, Inc.” (“FTH”), solicited vehicle donations that were supposed to fund humanitarian causes and then kept the proceeds to enrich himself.
Kars4Kids has received no notification of a lawsuit or any further actions.
[Hat Tip: CS.]