NBC10Philadelphia.com - Harry Hairston
What you may think is a heartfelt form of charity could actually be a scheme to steal your hard-earned cash. Harry Hairston and the NBC10 Investigators take a look at phony donation boxes in our area.
You see candy boxes all over -- the ones where you can take as much candy as you want and then drop as much cash as you want into the box. But where is the money going?
Bucks County police tell the NBC10 Investigators they believe the people behind the candy boxes at Schiano's Pizza store in Warminster as well as other locations are keeping the cash they collect without one cent going to help find missing children, as advertised.
“They’re raising money off of missing and exploited children,” said Solebury Township Detective Roy Ferrari. “That’s just wrong and that’s not what this should be used for.”
The NBC10 Investigators dug deeper and checked out the locations where these candy boxes were right on display.
The owner of Schiano's told NBC10’s Harry Hairston it touched his heart when he was told the candy box was to raise money for missing children. However, he adds that he didn’t know anything about the man who was bringing the boxes or where the money was really going.
“He just comes in actually and he doesn’t even say hello,” said Schiano’s Pizza owner Viaigio Pugliese. “He just places the box and then leaves.”
The man serving the box at Schiano’s is Kenneth Roeschen. NBC10 Investigator Harry Hairston caught up with him when he came in to pick up the candy box. Though Roeschen declined to comment, Ed Hilem, another man behind these boxes, says he purchased the boxes from a company after he read their ad on how to make extra cash.
He says if you read the small print on the box you’ll see the label clearly states this is not a charity and request you pay for the candy.
The NBC10 Investigators were able to track down the company selling the boxes: Advanced Business Concepts in Rock Hill, South Carolina. On their website, they promise business opportunities that could earn you up to $12,000 dollars a month working only 10 hours a week.
Hilem says that while money was part of the reason why he has been putting out these boxes, he says that he and others are trying to make people aware of missing and exploited children.
“All I was trying to do is make people be aware that there are a lot of children going missing out here,” Hilem said.
However, that’s not how the Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler sees it.
“The use of what is plainly designed to lead people to believe it’s a charitable contribution as a money maker is very disturbing,” Heckler said.
District Attorney Heckler says his office is part of a joint investigation into Hilem and Roeschen’s candy drop box money making activities. But he says he believes there may be more people involved than just these two men.
“We are delighted that you folks are calling the public’s attention to this and we will be prosecuting people as a consequence of this,” Heckler said.
So far, neither Hilem or Roeschen have been charged with a crime but cops in Solebury say they’ve confiscated nearly a dozen boxes they believe belong to either Roeschen or Hilem. Police in Lambertville, NJ say they’ve also discovered phony donation boxes.
Hilem claims it’s all a misunderstanding but says he stopped using the boxes once his attorney told him he was under investigation.
The NBC10 Investigators called Advance Business Concepts a number of times for comment but they have yet to respond.