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Friday, September 6, 2013

FROM CHARITY TO PROSPERITY: How Joeshipping.com Became Ship4Charities.com

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On its website, Ship4Charities describes itself as “a shipping logistics company that donates to charity for each package shipped.”

But an in-depth investigation by "Glistening, Quivering Underbelly" indicates that the organization may be executing an elaborate charity donation scam, one using legitimate charities as its bait.

In the second installment of an exclusive five-part investigative series, Miss Fortune reveals what she discovered about Ship4Charities, its questionable status as a "veteran-owned business" and its obscure predecessor, Joeshipping.com. 


CHRIS PAGANES: BARRED IN BOSTON...AND EVERYWHERE ELSE

In August 2009, Chris Paganes, the former CEO of Southfield, Michigan-based Maximum Financial Investment Group, Inc., was permanently barred "from serving in any principal capacity at a securities firm and suspended him from associating with any securities firm for nine months based on his conduct while he was Maximum's chief compliance officer."

Paganes’ finances took a significant hit—according to his November 2012 bankruptcy filing, Paganes’ estimated annual income dropped from $70,000 in 2010 to less than $28,000 in 2011.

But Paganes’ father, John T. Paganes, had already begun constructing the foundation for a new business his son Christopher would run, one that would combine charity with prosperity.

Wrapping himself in the flag and asserting his support for America’s fellow veterans, John Paganes launched what would eventually become Ship4Charities.








JOESHIPPING.COM

The company that would ultimately become Ship4Charities began operations in February 2011 under the name “Joe Shipping”. Although the site itself launched on February 22, 2011, Macomb County, Michigan, business entity records show that John Paganes did not register ‘Joe Shipping’ as an assumed name until November 10, 2011.

WHOIS records reveal Joeshipping.com was originally registered on September 6, 2010 by David Osborn, owner of the now-defunct Shebedino, Inc. In a listing on an affiliate sales website, Osborn’s California-based company described itself as “a network of web sites designed to provide part-time jobs with a focus on Veterans and their families.” Osborn further claimed that Shebedino was a “certified SDVOSB (Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business).”


Osborn explained that affiliates could “earn money from our web site. Our site offers FedEx shipping at a deep discount, all shipping will be thru the FedEx system. Discounts up to 30 also we are a charity web site and will donate part of each package shipped to charity. Go to www.joeshipping.com”

In an early pre-launch development version of Joeshipping.com that Miss Fortune accessed online, Osborn explained that the site would provide its members with "discounts on shipping and freight services while supporting a worthwhile cause."

Here's how the process was described by Osborn back in early 2011:

-Register if it is your first time using one of the many integrated Joe sites.
-Login.
-Accept or change your default "shipping from" information.
-Accept or change your default charity. The charity can be automatically applied if you came to Joe via a link provided by the charity.
-Fill in your "package" and "shipping to" information (link to a sample form).
-See Joe's discounted price and the amount to be donated to your charity. We could also show the non-discounted price to highlight the savings. We could offer a checkbox to forgo the discount and donate the extra money to the charity.
-Accept the price and pay using our payment gateway/merchant account. We should also accept payment by PayPal for those who prefer to use it.
-Print your label or receive it as a PDF email attachment.
-Your charity will receive an email confirming the donation caused by your purchase.
-Thanks from Joe and thanks from your charity!


At left is a February 22, 2011 screen capture from Joeshipping.com, showing a selection of its charity partners, including the Wounded Warrior Project.

Osborn's son, Kalian, confirmed in an email to Miss Fortune that he had indeed "worked on Joe Shipping a few years ago" but is no longer associated with the project.  

On his personal brandyourself.com site, Osborn states he was born in Michigan and moved to California when he was two. He describes himself as a 1999 West Point graduate who served a short stint in the Army before being medically discharged in 2002.

In a late 2011 public relations push, Joeshipping.com spokesperson Richard “Zeke” Zucaro posed the question, “Have you ever wanted to help a charity or nonprofit but do not have the cash to do it?” In a press release dated September 1, 2011, Joeshipping.com hyped its unique selling proposition: “all you have to do is buy your FedEx labels from www.joeshipping.com and [we] will do it for you!”

The release stated that if you bought your “significantly discounted FedEx label from www.joeshipping.com they will donate to your charity of choice a portion of every label sold.” Joeshipping.com boasted savings “up to 50%”.


In addition, the release stated that “Wounded Warriors (sic) was our first [partner] and they have been really successful!”

In addition to the Wounded Warrior Project, other partners listed on Joeshipping.com were the charities Wide Horizons for Children, West Point Association of Graduates, Better Days Animal League, For Love & Art and The Fort Worth HOPE Center.

“Glistening, Quivering Underbelly” contacted the charities to determine the relative success of their partnerships with Joeshipping.com, and only Mark Lombard, the founder and former president of Dallas-based For Love & Art, responded in time to be included in this report. 


Lombard confirmed in an email to Miss Fortune that his 501(c)(3) charity had “aligned with joeshipping.com early in our growth and development, but really haven't reaped much benefit from such alliance.”

However, Lombard did acknowledge that For Love & Art may not have “actively promoted our alliance in order for it to bear fruit.”

In an August 30 email to Miss Fortune, Zeke Zucaro asserted  that “the Joe Shipping concept did not work out.  We closed it all down.”


But although the domain name, joeshipping.com, officially expires today and is listed for sale on hugedomains.com for $1,795, the “Joe Shipping concept” did not really “close down”.


Chris Paganes, representing Troy, Michigan-based JoRoc Management Group 1, L.L.C., registered ship4vets.com on February 29, 2012 and ship4charities the following day, March 1. 
(JoRoc was incorporated by John Paganes on September 29, 2010.)

On May 17, 2012, John Paganes registered "Ship4Charities, LLC" with the State of Michigan, noting its business purpose in the Articles of Organization as "e-commerce".

And like a classic consumer brand rebirth, Joeshipping.com was retooled and relaunched on August 25, 2012 as Ship4Charities.com. 

But Joeshipping.com's founder, Kalian Osborn, was adamant when questioned about a possible connection between his site and Ship4Charities. Osborn told Miss Fortune in an email that "there was no transition.  We have nothing to do with Ship4Charities.com. It looks like they are using our code and me (the veteran who started Joe Shipping) in their marketing.  Other than that, I know nothing about it." 

Promising to its potential customers that it would “ship your products and you'll be donating to great causes and organizations”, Ship4Charities’ rebranding was nearly seamless, even retaining the iconic military shipping crate/parachute imagery utilized in Joeshipping.com’s logo.

But the new name wasn’t the only change.



SHIP4CHARITIES.COM

On its newly-designed website, Chris Paganes and Ship4Charities aimed directly at the heart of American patriotism—its respect and reverence for our veterans. 

The site’s “About Us” page claims Ship4Charities.com was “created in 2010 by a veteran who felt compelled to help his fellow vets – especially those who were injured while serving our country. He began by dedicating himself to the Wounded Warrior project (sic). That passion led him to FedEx®, where he negotiated a discount on their services on their behalf as a platform for charity giving.”


While it appears that Paganes is referring to Kalian Osborn, a check of California's official business entity records show no registration by Osborn for "Joe Shipping".

Paganes cleverly lets the "created by a veteran" claim float above the fray, although a check of publicly available records reveal no proof of his military service or that of his father, Tom Paganes.

Miss Fortune has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of Defense and will provide an update as soon it's available.

On the site’s “Frequently Asked Questions” page, Ship4Charities.com doubles down on its assertion of FedEx’s acknowledgment and support of its so-called charitable “mission”.

In explaining how Ship4Charities.com can offer a discount, the company asserts that “the fine people at FedEx® recognized the power of our mission.  They were able to afford us a volume discount in order to save the customer money on shipping and allow us to donate to charity.”


Although the claim of FedEx support is an integral part of the backstories of both Joeshipping.com and Ship4Charities.com,
a FedEx spokesperson appeared to refute that claim.


While confirming to Miss Fortune that FedEx does not provide exclusive charitable discounts like those claimed by Ship4Charities.com, even on behalf of “military veterans”, the spokesperson explained that company privacy rules prevented him from commenting specifically about any individual account.

However, he did allow that various discounts are available to anyone based on shipping volume, package pre-sort and printing your own FedEx shipping labels.

But Ship4Charities.com continues to make its case:

How does this work?
We made it very simple to use.  You can get a discounted quote for shipping, order a label based on your preferred method of shipping and select a charity from a list and we will donate a portion of the proceeds accordingly. The donation amount will be shown when you purchase the label.  Once the transaction has been completed you actually get a FedEx® label sent directly to your email!

How do I purchase my label?
Simply register for an account, log in and click “order now”.  From there you will be able to enter and save addresses, select your preferred method of shipping, check out using our secured payment methods and the label is immediately available to be downloaded from the “My Account” section of the Site.

How do I know if the package will be sent when I purchase through your site?
The fine people at FedEx® will take it from there. Since you are purchasing a FedEx® label, you can drop in a FedEx® box, take it to a FedEx® location or schedule a pick up at your location.

What methods of payments do you accept?
We accept VISA, MasterCard and American Express

What if I have a question about my label?  Who do I contact?  How do I track it?
You can email our customer service at cs@Ship4Charities.com or call 888-777-5063.  You can track your package on our site at any time using the "track my package" link. Please note that Fed Ex sends us the tracking information and we are dependent on them as when it is available for you to see.  In most instances package tracking will not be available for up to 48 hours depending on when the package was scanned and sent.

And while the previous answers seem clear, here’s where the flim-flam really starts:


How do I know if the charity received its donation from Ship4Charities.com?

Ship4Charities vows to ensure the charity will receive its donation. It is our mission to provide timely donations and that is one of the main reasons we set up this program.  Upon request, we will send the customer a summary of the donation along with the date we sent the donation to the charity you selected.
 
Do I receive a tax credit for my donation?

 
Unfortunately, you will not.  However, upon request, we can send you a letter documenting the donation amount we made on your behalf to the charity you selected. We cc the charity for their records so they recognize you made the purchase for their behalf.


HMMM?

So let's add up the major claims and see if the ledger still balances: 

Ship4Charities is not really a charity itself (remember, it's an LLC), and while it "vows to ensure the charity will receive its donation" Ship4Charities cannot be legally compelled to provide a donor with proof that "the charity" ever received the money. 

And even if a donation is made, you can't deduct it from your taxes because it came from Ship4Charities.com.

What? Were you really expecting something different from a company run by the former partner of Robert Buckhannon, Battle Creek's own "crooked chiropractor"?

So how much money is there, and where did it go?

PART 3-COMING MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 9

SHIP SAVE GIVE...SHOW ME WHAT MONEY?

Find out which Ship4Charities.com "partner" was not aware it even was a partner until Miss Fortune called for a comment!

And so much more!

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