Charges laid after stolen clothing donation bins found in storage

An Ottawa man is accused of stealing a number of charity clothing donation boxes after they were found, repainted, in a south-end storage facility.

Accused allegedly repainted stolen bins to turn a profit on used clothes

Big Brothers Big Sisters' Outaouais chapter identified these three bins as its used-clothing bins that were stolen in Nov. 2017. A layer of white paint covers its original purple colour. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

An Ottawa man is accused of stealing clothing donation boxes right off the street from several charities.

The large steel bins were stolen were then painted to cover up the logos of the charities and then rebranded "Canada Community Support Foundation." The accused then allegedly placed the bins back in parking lots for his own operation, according to Ottawa police.

Selling used clothing from these donation bins is a lucrative business than can garner as much as $10,000 per bin every month, according to Yvonne Dubé, general director of the Big Brothers Big Sisters' Outaouais chapter. 

It's stealing from the poor. It's unbelievable.- Yvonne  Dubé , Big Brothers Big Sisters'  Outaouais

Her charity had five bins stolen this past November.

A month later, the charity's Ottawa chapter reported six of its bins had disappeared. 

"I think it's terrible," said Dubé. "It's stealing from the poor. It's unbelievable."

Yvonne Dubé, general director of Big Brothers Big Sisters' Outaouais chapter, has started placing GPS trackers on her charity's used-clothing bins to prevent future thefts. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

Dubé says the ordeal has been a financial and emotional nightmare, costing her chapter an estimated $100,000 in lost revenue and replacement bins.

That money goes to youth programs in the area.

"The level of stress, the panic," said Dubé. 

"This is our only way of financing ourselves, it was like we were going to close the door if it doesn't stop." 

Bins weigh nearly 500 kilograms 

The bins are solid steel and weigh almost 500 kilograms and cost roughly $1,200. 

Tips from the public led Ottawa police to a self-storage property in south Ottawa, where officers executed a search warrant in mid-January and found a dozen clothing bins. Four of the bins were reported stolen by Big Brothers Big Sisters, another three were taken from Diabetes Canada, according to Ottawa police.

Investigator Admir Minarolli says the accused has been in the used-clothing industry for at least five years. He was once a victim and has now become an alleged perpetrator, he said.

"It's one of those the hunted becomes the hunted because he was complaining in 2013," said Minarolli. 

Canadian Community Support Foundation contacted police and sent out a press release in June 2013 reporting that it was placing GPS trackers inside its clothing bins after a rash of bin thefts in the Ottawa region. 

Now five years later, a 35-year-old man connected to the charity is charged with possession of property obtained by a crime over $5,000 and two counts of mischief. 

According to Canada Community Support Foundation's website it "provides a safety net for those at risk of falling through the cracks." The charity has not replied to CBC yet.

Police allege the accused repainted stolen bins and put on his own logo. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

'This was an eye-opener for us'

Susan Ingram, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters Ottawa, believes that the remainder of her bins that are still missing could be repainted and out in the community.

She's warning the public to check the name on bins before donating used clothing.

"This was an eye-opener for us," said Ingram. "I just can't believe someone would do that."

"It upsets me because we're really trying to do good with the money that we're able to bring in because of these clothing donations," she added.

CBC News counted roughly a dozen clothing bins on the premises of 613 Storage in Richmond where a client was renting outdoor space. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

Big Brothers Big Sisters still needs to recover the donation bins that police located in Richmond, but is worried about how much it could cost to remove the bins that are frozen to the ground and transport them back to Ottawa.

Client will be evicted from storage facility

The owner of the storage facility where the bins were found, John Kenny, spoke to CBC News from Arizona.

He was unaware allegedly stolen property was on the premises of 613 Storage. A client had rented an outdoor space and said he was in the used-clothing business, he said.

Kenny said he didn't become aware of the problem until he was contacted by police. The property is a 24-hour access facility that doesn't have an office on site.

"I own four self-storage facilities, I've got 3,000 clients," said Kenny.

"I can't police what people put in the bays. They come after hours and they come during the day. We don't go and inspect what they're doing every time they're in there."

Kenny says he does not condone criminal activity and says the client will be evicted from the property since charges have been laid.