Charity box questions

April 25, 2008 3:00:02 PM PDT
Big white bins with big signs are all over the Triangle, asking for your donations for what looks like a good cause, Cancer Free Carolina.

"Apparently North Carolina is one of the most giving states that, that there is," says Tony Cox. He runs Cancer Free Carolina and last fall he told us his money goes to a heavy hitter in the fight against cancer.

"A hundred percent of the proceeds that I get, goes to Cancer, goes to Duke," said Cox.

Stickers on the 55 bins in Wake, Durham, Orange and Johnston counties say Cancer Free Carolina supports the Duke Cancer Patient Support Program. Tony Cox told Eyewitness News sometimes donors are so generous they put brand new clothing into his bins.

"They're being deceived," says Michael Mooney. He continues, "they're being misled into thinking they're doing something good."

Mooney, who worked with Cox a few years ago, is coming forward and speaking to Eyewitness News about the operation.

Mooney: Basically what's happened is he just sits at home and waits til people put clothing in these bins that he calls his piggy banks. Steve Daniels: He calls them piggy banks? Mooney: He calls them piggy banks.

Mooney says Cancer Free Carolina is not what it appears to be.

Steve Daniels: Not helping people with cancer? Mooney: Not helping people with cancer. Steve Daniels: Is this guy getting rich doing this? Mooney: I don't know that he's getting rich but he's certainly making, he has a comfortable living, and he doesn't hardly work.

The Duke Cancer Center says initially it received a $1,000 donation from Cancer Free Carolina.

"We said sure, this is great, you're going to raise money to help our program, said Duke Cancer Center's Jill Boy. She continued, "it didn't turn out exactly the way we had hoped."

Boy says after getting a tip they investigated Cancer Free Carolina and decided to return two checks totaling $2,000 and sever all ties with Tony Cox.

"Duke does not have a relationship with Cancer Free Carolina," says Boy. "So, right now, even though you may see the Duke name on there, they've already been asked to discontinue using the Duke name," continued Boy.

"I'm going to have to respectfully decline the interview," said Cox when we tried to talk to him again this week. He wouldn't do an interview about the allegations but he did give us financial figures.

Cox says between September and mid-April, the time period his bins had the Duke stickers, his business took in $54,723. Most of that income was from the bins. He donated $2,000 to Duke. That means just four cents of every dollar went to the charitable cause and 96 cents to his overhead.

Cox also says Mooney is a disgruntled former business partner who was charged in Connecticut with taking kickbacks while he was running a charity.

In a statement about Cancer Free Carolina Cox says, "I was able the find some areas for improvement. Being new at this we are still learning. We are exited about the opportunity to grow and get better and ultimately help more people."

Cox says he's removing the Duke stickers but the Cancer Free Carolina bins will continue collecting donations all over the Triangle.

Cox says he's going to donate the $2,000 Duke returned to another charity. We discovered this isn't the first clothing bin company Tony Cox has run. In 2005 the Secretary of State shut down Community Clothing Recyclers for soliciting charitable contributions without a license. Later, in a settlement, the state said he could continue operating if he put the words "FOR PROFIT" clearly on his bins.

After we brought our questions about Cancer Free Carolina to the state last month, they've looked into the matter and have issued an administrative penalty for violating North Carolina charitable solicitation law and fined Tony Cox $1,000 for misrepresenting his association with Duke.

Produced by Ross Weidner


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