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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Campus California's Links to International Fugitive Amdi Petersen

Posted By on Wed, Jun 8, 2011 at 1:30 PM


Clothing is collected in Campus California's Bay Area dropoff boxes. - JAMIE SOJA
  • Jamie Soja
  • Clothing is collected in Campus California's Bay Area dropoff boxes.
n this week's SF Weekly cover story I explore apparent links between clothes donation boxes sprouting throughout the Bay Area and a business empire reputedly run by a Danish fugitive.

The story cites credible evidence that Campus California is connected to a global web of front groups led by Mogens Amdi Petersen. Danish authorities have been looking for him since 2006. He is wanted on allegations of money laundering, tax evasion, and fraud.

In this post we explore additional evidence that the hand-me-down clothes that are dumped into the ubiquitous green boxes aren't your ordinary charitable donation.

Campus California denies it's connected to any larger organization, much less one run by a fugitive. But SF Weekly's story describes loans, land deals, and other financial transactions linking Richmond-based Campus California to the Teachers Group, an organization which has been described by European governments and journalists as a Petersen-run cult. Much of the money comes from selling used clothing gathered in drop-off boxes. The clothes go to international brokers, and are ultimately bought as affordable garments by consumers in the developing world.

Our story only scratched the surface of documentary evidence. One file we didn't include -- because we hadn't yet located it -- is Campus California's 2010 IRS form 990, which the U.S. government requires all 501c3 nonprofit corporations to submit annually describing their financial activities.

The new form describes gross receipts during the 2010 calendar year of $4.1 million, with expenses of $3.8 million. This suggests an expansion from previous years, in which the organization reported revenues of less than $2 million.

In its IRS forms, Campus California lists as "related tax-exempt organizations" schools in Michigan and Massachusetts that are reputed fronts for Petersen's organization. In an interview, Campus California expansion Director Jan Sako said his organization in 2010 donated more than $200,000 to those two schools, which themselves are linked financially with other Teachers Group corporations.

Teachers Group-linked organizations have been criticized in the past for directing only a tiny fraction of revenues derived from clothing donations into charitable activities, despite touting the label "nonprofit" prominently on donation boxes.

The new IRS documents suggest that criticism also applies to Campus California.

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