Scammers create fake donation boxes claiming to support local animal shelters

PASCO COUNTY, Fla — A non-profit animal shelter in Pasco County says it hasn't received a dime from several donation candy boxes scattered in countertops of businesses around the Bay Area with their name displayed on them.

Justin Edwards, the manager at SPCA Suncoast, says someone is going to businesses asking if they can put a donation candy box on their counter collecting money for a local charity. On the box there is a sticker that says Suncoast SPCA. 

The manager of SPCA Suncoast says aside from the sticker displaying the organization's name backwards, it has never received money from this person and has no idea where the donation money is going.

"It’s clearly not our logo, it says Suncoast SPCA, not SPCA Suncoast and some stick figure cat and dog pictures," said Justin Edwards. 

Edwards says about a year ago a man came to their shelter asking if he could put these boxes out.

He said he would manage them and pick up the money and deliver it to them. Edwards said while it sounded like a good way to get donations, they didn't know the man and politely declined. That's because they weren't going to be able to manage them and it went against their policy.

But recently, Edwards says he spotted a box at a taco restaurant down the street from their shelter. He said he approached the manager about the box and as soon as that business realized the money is not going to them, they took it down.

Edwards started posting on Facebook about these boxes, and folks all over the bay area say they have seen them in businesses as far as Odessa and Palm Harbor. 

Edwards says if this person is legitimately donating to a local charity, he would like to know which one and why the boxes have stickers with a name similar to theirs on it.

"From a business mindset, it's a great idea. He's obviously generating money but it's just not coming here," Edwards said. "If one person is able to do all of this, and you focus that energy on actually doing a good thing, it wouldn't be an issue. It's lucrative and it's a good idea."

The person leaving these boxes also includes a letter with contact information on it. ABC Action News called the number to see if they'd tell us where the money is going, but no one picked up the phone. We left a message. The man did call back eventually, and says he has been donating money through the organization’s website. He says he has receipts to prove it. We showed Edwards the receipts, and he says those aren't receipts they give out.

"There's about enough money in [one box] to purchase a bag of dog food, that will feed one dog for probably two weeks," said Edwards.

Edwards says they could really use more donations - they had to close down their second building because of a lack of funding. The dog cages at their shelter are rusted and in need of repair and they also could use money to buy dog and cat food.

Owners of Three Brothers Pizza in Odessa say they had a box in their restaurant, but after reading Edwards' post they have taken the box off of the counter. 

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