PALO ALTO (CBS SF) — You may have seen them outside your local grocery store: men and women raising money for disabled and homeless veterans. An American flag and an ammo box are their trademarks.
KPIX 5 found them doing brisk business outside this Walgreens in San Carlos and at a whole foods in Palo Alto.
They look like veterans but when asked, none of the solicitors were. Still one man, who said he was a “manager”, said it’s all legit. “See we got the tax EIN number in case somebody write a check.”
The charity’s called the National Paradigm Foundation. Their office is here in Vallejo. The windows are covered up. No one answers the phones. And folks across the hall say they never see anyone around.
Turns out CEO Bryan Hancock spends most of his time at an office in Richmond, where he runs another charity. “How many veterans have you helped?” we asked him.
Bryan: “Probably about 45”
Betty: “Over how many years?”
Bryan: “About 3 years.”
He told KPIX 5 his charity provides food, clothing and referrals. “Actually physically driving them?” we asked.
“No, we don’t drive them, we just point them to that organization,” Bryan responded.
Bryan told us he’s not making nearly as much money as people think. “Yesterday, $28 between 3 people,” he said.
Betty: “Your 2011 IRS filing says your annual revenue is $296,000.”
Bryan: “For who?”
Betty: “For the National Paradigm Foundation. It says that $296,000 is your annual revenue.”
Bryan: “You mean our “suggested” revenue? That’s not our revenue.”
Betty: “How did you fall so short of $296,000?”
Bryan: “Well, we thought that we would become…start getting grants. The grants didn’t pan out.”
Neither did the charity’s paperwork with the state. After three years of warning letters that appropriate tax forms had not been filed, National Paradigm Foundation’s registration status is delinquent.
Betty: “According to the letter your foundation is now suspended.”
Bryan: “Is “now” suspended?”
Betty: “It’s suspended.”
Bryan: “Okay. Well I need to talk to my CPA.”
“It just makes me feel ripped off,” said Michael Blecker. He’s a Vietnam Vet who’s been running the non-profit group Swords to Plowshares for almost 40 years.
“They have the American flag, they have the symbols and they take advantage of this sea of goodwill. It hurts a group like Swords doing legitimate work, to make people feel like everybody is ripping them off so they can’t support anybody. So it’s bad for the whole system of care when people exploit that.”
Betty: “So people are skeptical. How can you guarantee that their money is going to a legitimate cause? What evidence do you have?”
Bryan: “What evidence do I have? I really don’t have any evidence.”
Hancock later told us the state made a mistake. He says he has filed and he produced a document. We checked with the state Attorney General’s office. They say they never got it. All the paperwork is public on the California Attorney General’s Charity research website: http://rct.doj.ca.gov/Verification/Web/Search.aspx?facility=Y