Lawsuit alleges homeless donation group is a sham

November 24, 2009 3:27:02 PM PST
Rodney Williams didn't want to talk to us, but he had no trouble asking strangers to drop money into his plastic United Homeless Organization jug. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the 24-year-old organization. He claims donations do not help the homeless, but instead line the pockets of the group's founder and director.

"It's a shame. There are people out here who really need the money. And they're not giving it to the people who need it," one person on the street told us.

The United Homeless Organization operates out of a fifth floor apartment in the East Tremont section of the Bronx. Founder and president Stephen Riley declined our request for an interview.

The lawsuit accuses Riley of using donations for his personal expenses, that donations are sought with misleading and false information, and that Riley keeps no records of money taken in and paid out.

Michael Wainwright, who told us he is not homeless, had his UHO jug and table set up near Penn Station.

The head of the Coalition for the Homeless hopes the lawsuit against the UHO doesn't keep people from donating to legitimate, well-established organizations.

"Some people get sucked in, thinking it's just like the Salvation Army, that sort of thing, but it's not. It's only going to that person and the person running the organization. There are no real programs to help the homeless," Mary Brosnahan said.