June 15, 2010; Source: New York Daily News | According to New York’s Attorney General and gubernatorial hopeful, Andrew Cuomo, charities in the state may be playing their version of “Grand Theft Auto” on an unsuspecting, and well-intentioned, public. Instead of using the proceeds from the sales of donated cars, Cuomo warned some charities might be keeping the cash for themselves. In response to what Cuomo said were “a lot of complaints recently,” his office has launched probe of the cars-for-charity business in the state, subpoenaing the records of 15 organizations and individuals to be sure they’re not scamming the public.

In addition, the Attorney General’s office sued Feed the Hungry, alleging that instead of using the proceeds from sales of donated cars to aid the homeless, the group’s director, Nicholas Cascone, Jr. kept the money for himself. In its suit, the state claims Cascone gave away only 1.8 percent of the $430,000 in donations he collected since 2002 to help the homeless. According to the New York Daily News, the group’s website, which had bogus information about the number of meals it paid for the hungry, was shut down after it learned about the investigation into its practices.

Cuomo also said that while there’s reason to believe some charities are committing fraud, not all programs are rip-offs. Said Cuomo, “We encourage the generosity of New Yorkers,” adding “we want to make sure the charities they are using are reliable.”—Bruce Trachtenberg