Editor's note: Watch Drew Griffin's report on several cancer charities that have raised millions of dollars. He investigates how that money is being used. Tune in to AC360° at 8 and 10 p.m. ET.
For more than a year, my colleague, producer David Fitzpatrick, and I have been crisscrossing the country exposing corrupt charities. We’ve found there is no shortage of greedy scam artists who will ask for your heartfelt donations, only to squander your money or keep it as their own.
We’ve had doors slammed in our face by so-called veterans’ charities. They raise money in the name of our country’s military heroes; yet in some cases, hardly any money reaches veterans in need.
We’ve exposed the gifts in kind trick, where well-intentioned people give donations to a charity group, and then the organization sends leftover junk, hand-me-downs or giveaways to the needy. They pretend it’s somehow proof of their “charitable work.”
Editor's note: For a list of legitimate charities and other ways to help Sandy victims from CNN's Impact Your World team, check outCNN.com/Impact
As the Northeast digs out from a second major storm in little more than a week, experts say Internet scam artists are preying on generous Americans who want to donate to the victims of Superstorm Sandy.
According to a Maryland-based Internet watchdog company, more than 1,000 Internet domain sites with the words "Sandy" or "relief" were registered either as the storm was approaching the Caribbean last week or, in some cases, even before the hurricane hit.
"We have no idea who these people are," Johannes Ulrich, president of SANS Security told CNN from his home in Jacksonville, Florida. "And what we notice is that they do register hundreds of these domains, in part, trying to trick people who go to these domains and then donate the money.
Thoreau, New Mexico (CNN) - Almost hidden in the spectacular red rock country of northwestern New Mexico is a tiny charity that educates and houses almost 200 Native American children and their families.
The St. Bonaventure Indian Mission and School, affiliated with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Gallup, mostly survives on donations, which it promises to use wisely. The need is apparent once you step onto the grounds.
And that's why mission executives agreed to work with one of the world's largest direct mail companies, which solicits donations for hundreds of nonprofit and charity clients in the United States. They wanted to raise as much money as they could.
They signed a contract with Quadriga Art in 2008 and, according to internal financial statements, saw more than $9 million in donations flow in over a four-year period.
But almost none of the money went to the mission.
THOREAU, New Mexico—A struggling charity in this tiny town amidst the spectacular red rock country of northwestern New Mexico has found itself owing one of the biggest direct mail companies in the world more than $5 million as a result of a failed fund-raising campaign.
The company is Quadriga Art, which just today received an official letter from the Senate Finance Committee in Washington, D.C., seeking detailed financial information about its finances, especially as they relate to another charity that we’ve investigated, the Disabled Veterans National Foundation.
Quadriga Art ultimately forgave a debt of $5.3 million but only after CNN began its investigation. Quadriga says it tried its best but the campaign was a failure.
And we’ve also examined another Quadriga client called Help the Children, based in Los Angeles. Its mission, it says, is to feed 130,000 families a month. But its CEO, Roger Presgrove, told CNN it too was upside-down to Quadriga Art for about $285,000 at one point.
WASHINGTON—The veterans charity that CNN has been examining for months now is also under investigation by the State of Florida.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs turned over all of its records to us after we filed a public records request earlier in September. Those documents show that the Disabled Veterans National Foundation, already the subject of an investigation by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, essentially paid off another charity years ago after claims that it pirated logo design, wording for fund-raising direct mail letters and a host of other items before launching its own direct mail campaign.
Editor's note: Watch Anderson Cooper's interview with California's Attorney General. She tells him why she wants the charity board members fired.
California authorities are taking a controversial veterans' charity to court, accusing it of paying officers "excessive" salaries and making "imprudent" loans, totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars, to a leading conservative activist's company.
In a civil lawsuit announced Thursday, the state attorney general's office asked a judge to remove the president and the entire board of directors of Help Hospitalized Veterans. The complaint asks for the board and president to pay more than $4 million in penalties to compensate for "misrepresentations" in solicitations by the charity.
The charity "has helped some veterans," Attorney General Kamala Harris told CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360." But she said nearly two-thirds of its revenue went to overhead, and the officers named in the complaint "have basically been lining their pockets off the compassion that Americans have for our veterans and servicemen and women."
CNN's Drew Griffin explains why the Senate Finance Committee is investigating DVNF and evaluating its tax-exempt status. He and Anderson Cooper respond to accusations made by the group on Twitter and their website.
Standing amid pallets of bottled water, suntan lotion and boxes of candies, Roy Tidwell says he is providing a service that can't be duplicated: shipping needed goods to dozens of charities at a low cost.
"Well, my portion of it is getting goods to help people who are suffering, goods that I can deliver for pennies on the dollar," he said. "And most places that get them are very appreciative."
Tidwell runs Charity Services International, which he says has 50 clients, all charities, including the Disabled Veterans National Foundation and SPCA International.
His business is in the middle of a debate over how charities put a monetary value on the items they donate.
In one instance, the Disabled Veterans National Foundation, using Tidwell's organization as a broker, shipped what it claimed were more than $800,000 worth of goods including chef's coats, hats and football pants to a small charity called U.S. Vets in Prescott, Arizona, in 2009.
After trying for months to take a first-hand look at the source of those donations sent around the nation by the Disabled National Veterans Foundation, we were finally allowed exclusive access to a small company based in South Carolina whose owner says he is proud of what he does.
The company is called Charity Services International and on the day we visited, we saw a lot of bottled water ready for shipment. We also saw candy—boxes and boxes of M&M’s and Three Musketeers. And we saw carton after carton of hand sanitizer and suntan lotion. We also saw hundreds of “Rambo” T-shirts.