St. Louis, Mo., August 2, 2011 - A national charity that is seeking car donations in the St. Louis area has ties to a Detroit area businessman who has been criticized for alleged improprieties in running similar programs, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns.
The BBB advises caution when dealing with Rick Frazier and the charity Others First. Others First is a two-year-old nonprofit that raises money for causes, such as disabled and homeless veterans, cancer research, children and animals.
In recent months, Others First has mailed solicitations to St. Louis area consumers on behalf of an affiliated charity, Cars Helping Veterans (www.carshelpingveterans.org). Advertising flyers mailed throughout the bi-state area say the vehicle donations go to help veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Michelle L. Corey, BBB President and CEO, said the BBB is concerned about Frazier's controversial history with other charitable vehicle donation programs. "Mr. Frazier's past problems are reason to be cautious about his newest venture," she said.
Corey also said it appears that a former associate of Frazier, and perhaps even Frazier himself, may have potential conflicts of interest over their involvement in the Others First donation program.
Frazier and former coworker Maurice E. Banks recently signed potentially lucrative contracts to run vehicle donation programs for the charity. Frazier is described in the media and on the website of an Others First charity as the charity's founder, although he denies that role. Banks is the previous treasurer of Others First.
Frazier's Charity Funding and Banks' Charity Car Brokers are named as fundraising consultants for Others First in several states. Contracts in Illinois and North Carolina show Others First has agreed to pay Banks and Charity Car Brokers 30 percent of the net profits from the program.
Frazier's problems in the charity arena have been the subject of news reports. The Detroit Free Press reported in 1998 that the Mother Waddles Perpetual Mission charity in Detroit accused Frazier of several improprieties in that donation program. The newspaper also raised questions about Frazier's involvement with the Charity Motors donation program in Detroit.
Last year, the Virginia-based Military Order of the Purple Heart Foundation alleged in a court suit that an audit found widespread problems with Frazier's role in that program, including self-dealing, illegal practices and destruction of incriminating records. Frazier denied the claims.
About two years ago, Frazier began operating a car donation program for Vietnam Veterans of America in about a dozen states. That organization has said it is satisfied with the program.
Records on file with Michigan show that Others First was registered as a nonprofit in September 2009. The incorporator was listed as David S. Kennedy of West Bloomfield, Mich.
In the months that followed its incorporation, Others First registered several assumed names, including: Cars Helping Veterans, Cars for Research, Cars Fighting Cancer, Cars for Christ, Cars to Help Kids, Cars Helping Pets and Mikie's Minutes.
Others First is registered to do business in at least eight states - Missouri, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Washington, Colorado, Arizona and Utah - although its various websites say it accepts donations from all 50 states.
The BBB could not determine how much Others First has raised through its vehicle donation program or how much Frazier and Banks have received for running the program. But financial information made public by the Military Order of the Purple Heart Foundation two months ago shows that foundation made $15.9 million from its car donation program in the 11 months ending June 30, 2010, with most of that coming from five states.
Frazier and Banks did not respond to a BBB request for interviews. Kennedy, president of Others First, said in a letter to the BBB that Frazier has never been a board member or officer of Others First and any reference to him as founder is “unauthorized and misguided.” He added that because Banks resigned from the Others First board before signing contracts with the charity, “there never was a conflict of interest.”
The BBB has these tips to consumers considering donating a vehicle to charity:
- Verify that the recipient organization is a tax exempt charity.
- Find out how the charity benefits financially from the resale of the car.
- For tax records, take a photo of the car and keep copies of current classified ads or guide value estimates for similar vehicles. (For more deductibility information, get a copy of IRS Publication 561, “Determining the Value of Donated Property.”)
- If a car is worth more than $5,000, get a professional appraisal before donating.
- Find out if the charity is registered with your state.
- Check for a BBB Charity Review by going to www.bbb.org or calling 314-645-3300.
Contacts: Michelle Corey, President & CEO, 314-584-6800, firstname.lastname@example.org; Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, 314-584-6743 or 314-681-4719 (cell), email@example.com; or Jim Judge, Charity Review Director, 314-584-6735, firstname.lastname@example.org