But an in-depth investigation by "Glistening, Quivering Underbelly" indicates that the organization may be executing an elaborate charity donation scam, one using legitimate charities as its bait.
On the surface, Ship4Charities appears to be all about “helping those in need, while enhancing the profits of business”. But scratch the surface of the company, headed by disgraced former investment advisor Chris Paganes, and you'll see it’s as much in the sleight-of-hand business when it comes to an honest accounting of the money raised on behalf of its charity partners.
In fact, the four charities featured in this article have never received any of the money potentially donated in their names. And with the exception of one, the Michigan Humane Society, Ship4Charities is still rattling the tin cup--purporting to donate a portion of each sale to their respective causes.
In the third installment of a five-part investigative series, “Glistening, Quivering Underbelly” reveals the fraudulent and deceptive ways Ship4Charities.com helps itself, while enhancing the finances of one of its founders.
To tell the story of Ship4Charities, Miss Fortune researched the company and its founders, John and Chris Paganes.
Miss Fortune requested sponsorship donation information from the charities listed on Ship4Charities.com. Representatives of Detroit-based Alternatives for Girls, the Michigan Humane Society, Art Road, and Camp Casey responded to “Glistening, Quivering Underbelly” by today's deadline.
And what they told Miss Fortune shows Ship4Charities’ claims of charitable donation—made on their website, Facebook page and Twitter feed—travel along a continuum from gross exaggerations to flat-out lies.
ALTERNATIVES FOR GIRLS
Alternatives For Girls (AFG) is a Detroit-based 501(c)3 nonprofit serving homeless and high-risk girls and young women. Since 1987, AFG has provided critical services to the girls and young women we serve, including safe shelter, street outreach and educational support, vocational guidance, mentoring, prevention activities, and counseling.
While Ship4Charities.com actively promotes its support of AFG on its website and social media including Facebook and Twitter, a spokesperson for AFG told Miss Fortune that the group has never received any money.
The spokesperson explained that Ship4Charities.com approached AFG with a partnership proposal approximately 18 months ago. Although Ship4Charities was ambiguous when AFG inquired whether the donation level would be a fixed rate or percentage of sales, they agreed to the partnership with Ship4Charities.
[UPDATE: On November 14, a spokesperson for AFG confirmed to Miss Fortune that the organization had recently received a donation from Ship4Charities. Due to donor privacy policies, AFG declined to reveal the amount.]
MICHIGAN HUMANE SOCIETY
Ship4Charities.com began promoting its support of the Michigan Humane Society (MHS) in a December 12, 2012 tweet:
A spokesperson from MHS' administrative headquarters in Bingham Farms, Michigan confirmed to Miss Fortune in an email that “MHS does partner with two wonderful organizations that help the military and homeless animals – Pets for Patriots and Stiggy’s Dogs”.
However, when she checked with the MHS Development department about its partnership with Ship4Charities, she told Miss Fortune that she “hadn’t been able to identify who here had signed us up”.
In addition, although Ship4Charities.com has apparently been collecting funds on behalf of the MHS for nearly nine months, the spokesperson confirmed in an email to Miss Fortune that “there is no record of donations from the program to date”.
Late last week, after Miss Fortune spoke with the MHS, Ship4Charities quietly removed the Michigan Humane Society from its "Pets & animals charities" page. The image at left was captured on September 4.
Art Road is a suburban Detroit area 501(c)(3) non-profit that describes its mission as “actively bringing art class back into schools for the entire school year as part of the regular curriculum”. Currently, Art Road is providing art class to 1,200 students that lack art in their curriculum.
Art Road’s spokesperson confirmed to Miss Fortune that Ship4Charities.com did propose a partnership, but the organization opted not to proceed. The spokesperson reported that the group has not received any donations, and never approved use of its logo on Ship4Charities.com.
But once again, Ship4Charities claims Art Road as a “favorite cause”, available on its order page for you to select for a donation.
And once again, this charity has received seen a dime from Ship4Charities.
Camp Casey is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit horseback riding program for children with cancer headquartered in Royal Oak, Michigan. Through generous donations and amazing volunteers, Camp Casey has spread the healing power of horses for over eight years.
And Camp Casey is the most egregious example of Ship4Charities’ deception Miss Fortune discovered.
In a slideshow on its “Charities” page, Ship4Charities.com features a photo a small child, likely cancer-stricken, riding a horse. In the photo, two adults are shown walking with the horse and child, wearing “Camp Casey” T-shirts.
However, a spokesperson for Camp Casey confirmed in a shocking email to Miss Fortune that Camp Casey had “never received anything from Ship4Charity and didn't even know who this was until you reached out”.
In addition, she confirmed that Camp Casey never received any donations potentially collected on their behalf by Ship4Charities.
But Ship4Charities.com has promoted its support of Camp Casey on social media, including this tweet:
SHIP4CHARITIES OR SHIP$CHARITIES: WHERE DOES THE MONEY GO?
Ship4Charities is not a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and as a Michigan LLC is not required to complete an IRS form 990 that charities file to disclose income and program expenditures.
But thousands of dollars may have found their way from Ship4Charities into Chris Paganes’ bank account.
Paganes’ November 2012 bankruptcy filing offers a hint at the amount of “charity” he could be receiving from JoRoc Management, the Michigan business entity that registered ship4charities.com and ship4vets.com.
In his November 30, 2012 bankruptcy income statement, Paganes reveals the nearly $23,000 in gross wages he received from JoRoc Management between May-October 2012:
The "greater good of all"?
If the words "fraudulent and deceptive" come to mind, then you'll want to come back tomorrow for Part 4 of Miss Fortune's exclusive report on Ship4Charities.
COMING TOMORROW: PART 4
MO CHARITIES, STILL NO MONEY