Say Elaborate And Lucrative Ring May Be Linked To Organized Crime

BAY SHORE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A pair of heartless thieves on Long Island are facing charges for allegedly stealing clothing donation bins — and then selling the clothing for big bucks.

CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan saw what police called a bogus clothing bin on Thursday. It was stolen, reconfigured, stripped, repainted and adorned with fake logo representing a fake charity, “International Helping Hand.” It’s part of a growing scam ravaging non-profits that depend on donations to keep their crucial work thriving.

“I needed a lot of support and this place — Breast Cancer Help — is the only kind of place that provides the services,” breast cancer survivor Susan Piccininni said.

Piccininni and other survivors got word Thursday that more than a dozen of their Breast Cancer Help Inc., bins were allegedly stolen by Cesar Martinez-Duran and Sergio Sandoval-Martinez, both of Amityville. They were picked up in an alleged stolen clothing bin ring that reaps huge cash profits. Police said they were busted when GPS tracking devices followed the stolen bins to a secluded location in Lindenhurst.

“We observed the subjects behind a fence, trying to deface the bins and it was a crime in progress and we stopped them from doing that and those were the bins that were stolen,” Suffolk County Police Detective Sgt. Jeff Walker said.

Detectives said suspect Duran planted at least 40 more phony donation bins in and around Long Island. There are now fears gangs and organized crime are involved.

“These bins cost about $1,100 to replace. This is an organized effort,” said John Zaher of Breast Cancer Help, Inc.

Non-profits get only 25 cents a pound and then cart, sort, and clean each donation. The thieves cherry pick the best, and can make thousands off the contents of one bin.

“They are stealing from people who are in dire need, emotionally and physically,” said Alex Fezza of the Long Island Cancer Help & Wellness Center.

Legitimate businesses say they can’t compete with the crooks. GPS tracks stolen bins but by the time authorities get there fencers have paid cash and escaped with the stolen clothes.

The victimized non-profits are calling for a state-wide law enforcement task force to crack down on the theft of donation bins.

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