At first glance, the dozens of red-and-white
collection bins around Denver look like donation boxes put out by Goodwill or
The Salvation Army.
But the Denver/Boulder Better Business Bureau says
the bins are part of a "shadowy network of for-profit entities originating in
Denmark that have been charged with money laundering, profiteering, tax fraud
Some business owners gave permission to U'SAgain,
the Chicago-based company that owns and operates the bins, to place bins near
their property. Several Denver business owners interviewed Wednesday said they
Other bins were placed in a "no man's land" on
sidewalks or street corners, said Susan Liehe of the BBB.
"Folks are donating to the bins, and they think
it's a charity," she said. "It is actually funding a network of fraud and
U'SAgain identifies itself on the bins, and on its
website - www.usagain.com - as a commercial company that collects donated
clothing. "All the clothes are sold. We get paid by the pound. In that way we
can provide your local community with a new and splendid recycling opportunity
at no charge," according to the website.
Allan Foighel, manager of U'SAgain
operations in Denver, said the company arrived here in January and has set up
130 collection bins.
He said the company makes it clear that it is a
commercial venture, and that it was a "misunderstanding" if business owners
"We don't represent ourselves as a charity," he
said. "We make it clear that this is a recycling initiative."
Sal Mineo, manager of Rico's Pizzeria on South
Broadway in Englewood, said a representative from U'SAgain approached the
restaurant about three months ago, claiming the donated items would go to
Mineo said he dropped a few items into
the box, as did several customers. He said he will call the listed phone number
to have the bin removed.
"They lied to me," he said. "Things like this turn
Henry Nguyen, owner of Alexander's Car Wash on
South Broadway, said a U'SAgain representative told him the group "collected
clothes to give to poor people."
He said he also plans to have the bin removed.
Liehe said the bins are not technically illegal,
but she plans to contact the city to see what can be done.
"There may not be much we can do in Denver to stop
this staggering ring of fraud that appears to touch virtually every
continent," Liehe said.
U'S Again is connected to
Tvind, according to the BBB and news reports.
Tvind originated in the late 1970s in Denmark as a
counterculture teacher collective and has morphed into an international network
of enterprises, some legitimate and some criminal, according to a 2004 Chicago
Officials with the group have been charged in
Denmark with embezzlement and tax evasion, according to the article.
A website, www.tvindalert.com, is hosted by
Staff writer Will Shanley can be reached
at 303-820-1473 or firstname.lastname@example.org.