PALM DESERT, Calif. - The advertisements make a charitable write-off look effortless.
"Donating your car is easy!"
In fact thousands of charities nationwide solicit for money in the form of car donations.
And Gregory Allomong of Palm Desert thought it would be a perfect way to offload his 1994 Cutlass Ciera.
"I called up Martha's Village, they sent somebody in like two days from San Diego with a driver, picked up the car, just drove away."
But within three months, that Ciera came back to haunt Allomong.
"i started getting tickets, then a few months later I started getting impound notices, then I started getting threatening letters, saying I owe $786 dollars for this, and..If you add up all the stuff that they're sending me I owe thousands of dollars for thousands of dollars for donating a car worth a couple thousand dollars," said Allomong.
Allomong donated his Ciera in January of 2018, and walked his DMV paperwork into the Palm Desert office the very next day.
As the tickets came in, Allomong mailed copies of the DMV notice of transfer over and over again, and repeatedly emails his contact at Martha's who assured him the DMV had the proper paperwork.
Last December, he was told it was all taken care of, and then, he gestures to another envelope on his kitchen table, "this is a failure to appear. Next is a warrant for my arrest."
Allomong is one of about two dozen individuals who have donated their old cars to Martha's Village and Kitchen in Indio since 2016, netting about $10,000 to the charity.
However, the nonprofit had been unaware that Allomong had been at his wit's end until the I-Team reached out to them.
"We did receive Greg's donation," said Kimberly Stauffer, Director of Development with Martha's Village & Kitchen. "It did what it was supposed to do to help, but unfortunately in the sale or transfer, the new person who bought the vehicle did not register it the correct way, and Greg, unfortunately, received all the tickets and everything."
Making matters worse, the contact Allomong had been emailing didn't work for Martha's at all.
"The mixup happened with our San Diego office that we work with, CARS. They are a separate entity and when people make the donation they assume it's directly to Martha's," explained Stauffer.
The Better Business Bureau "A+ Rated" cars or charitable adult rides & services handled more than 103,000 donations last year for thousands of charities nationwide. including Guide Dogs of the Desert and Desert AIDS Project. According to the non-profit's CEO Howard Pearl, only two of those donations 'got out of control."
CARS employs people specifically to handle situations like Allomong's and apologized for whatever role they might have played.
"The donor is the most important part of the equation," Pearl said.
"If your heart is with that organization, then the best thing to do, instead of donating the vehicle is sell it. You got the cash, donate it," said Clark Howard, a nationally syndicated consumer advocate.
Howard also said Allomong did the right thing in documenting the donation.
"That's why you always do a bill of sale when you're selling a vehicle to an individual, has the date, the vehicle identification number, the miles, who the buyer is, who the seller is, and both signatures on it, as an item of proof in the event you do get hit with tickets," Howard said.
Allomong says he is grateful he can now spend less time on paperwork and more time giving back.
"But now that I know that Martha's is as good as I thought they were, I'm going to get involved with Martha's now," Allomong said.
CARS' CEO tells us you should always scrutinize the nonprofit you are donating to. If they have a good reputation on sites like Charity Navigator or Guidestar, chances are that whoever they chose to work with as an outsource partner has been thoroughly vetted.
More: I-Team investigations
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