State eyes possible fraud in car donation charities

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More than a dozen car donation companies and charities - including two on Long Island - are being targeted by the state attorney general's office in a crackdown on possibly fraudulent charity schemes.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office filed suit against one charity Tuesday, and issued subpoenas to 14 other companies, charities and individuals involved with receiving donations of cars from the public, then selling them for charitable purposes.

In Manhattan, Cuomo said his office had received "a number of complaints" about the companies in the past year.

"We've had people calling in, saying it doesn't sound right," Cuomo said.

Subpoenas were issued to We Buy Cars Inc., a for-profit company based in Bellerose Village; We Buy Cars head Louis Cardillo; Bless the Kids, a Hewlett-based nonprofit; and Kars for Kids of New Jersey.

The subpoenas sought details on how much the companies collected from car donations and where the money went.

Neither Cardillo nor We Buy Cars responded to requests for comment.

Jeffrey Lichtman, a Manhattan attorney representing Bless the Kids, said the group has complied with the attorney general's office.

"It's a carefully documented charity," he said. "Every dollar is accounted for We produced literally boxes and boxes of papers for the attorney general.."

In 2008, Bless the Kids gave out $21,533 in charitable grants - about 10 percent of its revenue (that year, almost $159,000 went to "advertising and promotion"), tax records show. Lichtman said it gave out about $40,000 in 2009 - 20 percent of revenue.

"It was not the most efficent charity in '08," said Lichtman.

"We're not happy with the percentage of actual monies going to charity, but it's an improving situation and we hope to keep improving," Lichtman said.

Cuomo's office also filed suit Tuesday against Feed the Hungry, a Staten Island nonprofit, and its director, Nicholas Cascone Jr., who is accused of funneling money to himself that should have gone to charity.

Asked about whether criminal charges will be pursued, Cuomo's office said the probe is ongoing.

Cascone did not return a call.

Sandra Miniutti, vice president of Charity Navigator, a charity watchdog, said those who donate old cars to charity should shy away from using those companies that advertise excessively.

"The best-case scenario is to find a charity you can work with directly and skip the middlemen," she said.

Charities

Bless the Kids, Hewlett

Hope for the Disabled Kids Inc., Ozone Park

Kars for Kids, N.J.

Tree of Life, Brooklyn

LeChaim Society, Brooklyn

Heritage for the Blind, Brooklyn

Children in Crises, N.J.

Breast Cancer Society, Ariz.

Children's Cancer Fund of America Inc., Powell, Tenn.

Children's Literacy Program, Westminster, Md.

 

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Companies

We Buy Cars Inc., Bellerose Village

Cars that Help, Staten Island


 Individuals

Louis Cardillo, Bellerose Village

Arthur Glass, Staten Island

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