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Westchester Company Is Fined $700K For Charity Scam

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman Photo Credit: New York Attorney General's Office

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. — New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has reached a settlement with Thrift Land USA of Yonkers Inc., a for-profit company that operates more than 1,100 clothing donation bins placed in shopping center parking lots, gas stations and other locations throughout the New York metropolitan area.

The settlement resolves allegations that Thrift Land used a charitable veneer to trick and mislead the public into believing that the clothing it collected would benefit the charity whose name and logo appeared on its bins. However, Thrift Land sold the clothing at a huge profit, and the charities named on the bins – Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rockland County and I Love Our Youth Inc. – received only a small, monthly fee for the use of their name and logo.

The attorney general also reached settlements with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rockland County and I Love Our Youth Inc. for entering into agreements with Thrift Land that enabled the company to use their name and logo to deceive the public.

“Duping members of the public into thinking that they are making a charitable donation, when in fact they are enriching a for-profit corporation, is both deceptive and illegal,” said Schneiderman. “When a for-profit company masquerades as a charity, my office will hold it and its owners accountable.”

The settlement with Thrift Land and its principal, Carl Vella, requires the company to rebrand its bins so they do not state or imply that clothing deposited in the bins will benefit any charity or serve any charitable purpose. Thrift Land will also permanently attach a prominent disclosure label on all of its bins clearly stating that none of the clothing deposited in its bins, or the proceeds from the sale of such items, will benefit a charity.

As part of the settlement, Thrift Land has also paid $50,000 in penalties and costs, and made a payment of $650,000 to two not-for-profit organizations, the New York Community Trust and the Westchester Community Foundation, so that the charitable intent of the people who placed clothing in its bins will be fulfilled.

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