Ventura Charity Sued for Pocketing Cash From Sold Cars

A Camarillo man reports receiving a $25 check from Cars 4 Causes after donating his '98 Volvo to raise money for his church

A Ventura-based charity faces a lawsuit after reportedly pocketing more cash from the sales of old cars than it donates to charity.

Sean Leonard of Camarillo alleges that Cars 4 Causes ripped off his church after he donated his 1998 Volvo S70 to the charity in 2014.

The organization sent his church a $25 check for the car.

Leonard said the car's value today is $1,800. Cars 4 Causes told him the car sold for $650, less than half of what he'd expected. Based off that amount, his church would get $450.

Leonard's church was supposed to receive 70 percent of the profits from his donated car, as advertised on the organization's website. The website has been taken down.

"The money obviously didn't go to my charity, so it went into their pockets," Leonard said.

Yelp reviews of the organization show similar allegations. The Better Business Bureau also found Cars 4 Causes as failing to meet their standards for charitable donations.

"These companies are not only soliciting cars, but RVs, trucks, other equipment," said Steve McFarland of the Better Business Bureau.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris has filed a lawsuit against Cars 4 Causes, alleging the charity used 87 percent of its donations to pay for advertising, administrative costs and staff salaries. Harris alleges that only 13 percent was directed toward charities.

Between 2009 and 2014, Cars 4 Causes reported donating $15.9 million dollars to charities. The Attorney General's office says just $5.4 million actually went to charities.

Cars 4 Causes responded to the allegations. "Cars 4 Causes and its directors have been singled out and persecuted for their charitable efforts by government employees ill equipped to understand the nuances of business in general or of the not-for-profit sector in particular," its attorney said, according to court documents.

"Don't let this charity tarnish all the other charities," Leonard said. Despite this experience with Cars 4 Causes, he plans to continue making donations.

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