Attorney General Cuomo Announces Industry-wide Investigation Into Car Donation Charities
NEW YORK, NY (June 15, 2010) - Attorney General Andrew Cuomo today announced an industry-wide investigation into car donation charities after a review found fraudulent practices that deceived donors and diverted funds from those in need. As a result of the investigation, the Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit seeking to shut down one charity for misusing money meant for the homeless, and subpoenaed 16 charities, fundraisers, and individuals.
The lawsuit charges 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. Of the more than $430,000 that FTH received in donations between 2002 and 2009, the investigation found that less than $7,900 - 1.8% - was used for charitable purposes.
“Nicholas Cascone and his Feed the Hungry organization promised to use donated vehicles to help the homeless but only ended up taking generous New Yorkers for a ride,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “We remain concerned that similar practices may prevail in other organizations and will diligently work to root out any other sham charities. As we continue working to clean up this industry, we encourage generous New Yorkers to stay informed and to keep donating to worthy charities.”
Charities involved in the car donation industry solicit contributions in the form of used vehicles, which they then sell to raise funds for humanitarian causes. The Attorney General’s review has shown that some charities mislead donors about how much money is used for charitable purposes as well as where the money goes. In some cases, the car donation charity is a complete sham, with little or no money going to the causes the charity purports to support.
The Attorney General’s lawsuit charges that Cascone and FTH intentionally made false representations about FTH in order to trick people into donating their vehicles. For example, the charity’s own website included false claims about the number of meals for the hungry that FTH had funded. The website, www.feedthehungryinc.org, was taken down when FTH learned of the Attorney General’s investigation. The lawsuit also charges Cascone with failing to provide even the most basic corporate and financial oversight of charitable assets. Further, during the Attorney General’s investigation, Cascone invoked the Fifth Amendment more than 150 times and refused to answer simple questions about whether FTH took any steps to prevent charitable funds from being spent on personal items.
The Attorney General’s lawsuit seeks to:
- Freeze FTH’s assets and permanently bar any further charitable solicitations by FTH;
- Obtain a full accounting of FTH’s and Cascone’s current and former assets and hold Cascone liable for restitution and damages;
- Prevent Cascone from serving as an officer or director of any not-for-profit in the future;
- Permanently dissolve FTH and dedicate any remaining assets to charitable uses that are actually consistent with the stated mission of FTH.
The lawsuit against FTH and Cascone can be found at www.ag.ny.gov.
SUBPOENAS TO CHARITIES, FUNDRAISERS, AND INDIVIDUALS
As part of his wide-ranging investigation, the Attorney General has sent subpoenas to sixteen charities, fundraisers, and individuals involved in the charitable car donation industry. The subpoenas seek materials relating to the revenues that charities and for-profit fundraisers have collected through car donation programs, and how those revenues were used by the charities. The subpoenas also seek evidence to support the representations made in solicitations to potential vehicle donors.
The charities, fundraisers, and individuals that have received subpoenas are: Bless the Kids, Inc.; Breast Cancer Society; Cars that Help, Inc.; Louis Cardillo; Children in Crises; Children’s Cancer Fund of America; Children’s Literacy Fund; Feed the Hungry, Inc.; Arthur Glass; Heritage for the Blind; Hope for the Disabled Kids, Inc.; J.O.Y. for our Youth, Inc. d/b/a Kars 4 Kids; Lechaim for Life; Neo Presearch Energy Foundation, Inc.; Tree of Life; and We Buy Cars, Inc.
This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Nathan Reilly, with the assistance of Analyst Kayla Arslanian, under the supervision of Special Deputy Chief of Staff Mitra Hormozi, and Chief of the Charities Bureau Jason Lilien.
Today’s actions are part of Attorney General Cuomo’s ongoing initiative to fight charitable fundraising scams and to safeguard donors. Recently, Cuomo sued to shut down a sham charity operation that claimed to raise money for breast cancer, as well as four professional fundraising companies that used fraudulent and deceptive practices. Last December, the Attorney General secured an injunction against the United Homeless Organization for deceiving donors. Last November, the Attorney General released his annual “Pennies for Charity” report, which shows the percentage of donations collected by charities that go to professional fundraisers as opposed to charitable purposes.
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 www.charitiesnys.com or by calling (212) 416-8402.
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