Donations spark turf war among Valley charities

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PHOENIX - “I just think it’s good to be able to give back to other people that probably need things more than I do and you know,” Leigh Penny said. “Clean out your closet, you might as well donate it!”

Like most people, Penny donates thinking what she puts in these bins goes directly to those in need.

She was surprised to learn that's not always the case.

“Wow,” she said. “What happens to the clothes then?”

Turns out, many donations are weighed and sold to stores, like Savers, for anywhere between five and 50 cents per pound.

More donations means more money.

Rita weaver says it’s this mentality that has her charity on the front lines of a turf war.

“It's just really an unreal thing. I'm really just shook by it all,” she said.

Weaver is the director of Go Green for the Cause, a national charity with an Arizona chapter.

So far this year, Weaver says 75 Go Green charity bins, Valleywide, have disappeared.

Private investigators Sandra Hope and Tom Scharrer were hired to track them down.

“We need the public's help, we need 3 On Your Side's help,” Hope said. “We need everybody's help to stop this crime of stealing from the poor.”

Hope says their investigation led them to a man named Robert Miller.

“Anytime he sees another bin, he just takes it away so only his bin is left, so you don't have a choice,” Hope said.

Miller is one of the owners of a company called American Textile Recycling Service, a for-profit company.

The name, A.T.R.S., appears on some 300 Weldon House bins Valleywide. 

The Weldon House helps women and children escape abusive situations.

But what percentage of profits that actually go to the Weldon House remains unclear.

3 On Your Side asked Miller about that, and about accusations that he has competing charity bins towed away.

“We don't go looking for their bins where we're not out to get them removed,” Miller said. “Only if they invade our space.”

Miller tells 3 On Your Side he's only looking out for the best interest of his charity.

“We will try and defend our turf. We'll try and keep that location for Weldon House,” he said.

Before having any bin towed, Miller says he sends charities like Go Green three-day notices. 

So we wanted to know what happened to all of Go Green's missing bins? 

So far, about 10 have been recovered across the Valley, including this one that turned up at a tow yard in west Phoenix. 

The bins cost about $2,000 each, so even with a steady stream of donations from charitable people like Leigh Penny, the Go Green charity says this turf war is pushing them into the red.

So, how do you know where the items you donate are going?

Read all labels and fine print on collection bins before you drop off your donations.

You can also check out your charity on websites like Charity Navigator or through the Better Business Bureau.