An investigation by I-Team may have saved one Connecticut high school's graduation party.
Last fall, there was a big fundraiser in Berlin and they were counting on the money raised to make sure graduating seniors were sent off in style. But, the check never arrived, so they turned to the I-Team went looking for answers.
As co-chair of the Berlin High School all night graduation party, Lucy Halkias had a big job. Besides all the arrangements for that night in June, she had to spearhead a fundraising effort to pay for it. That effort began with a clothing drive back in October. She wallpapered the town with these fliers.
“My garage was filled with bags of clothes. The support we had was unbelievable,” Halkias said.
By the evening of Oct. 15, the sidewalk outside Berlin High School was piled high with black plastic bags jammed with donated clothes. As they'd done in the past, they were working with a new jersey company called Fashion Republic. Their website said they buy clothes by the pound to resell overseas.
Halkias and another parent loaded the truck themselves. Fashion Republic sent them an email a couple days later saying they had collected 7,353 pounds of clothes, and promised a check for a little over 15-hundred dollars.
Halkias said she felt it was “decent size fundraiser.”
“It sure was, we were definitely counting on this money,” Halkias said.
But that was on Oct. 18, it wasn't until mid-January that organizers realized the check never arrived at Berlin High School.
“They told me the check didn't come yet, and I said ‘what?’ Why didn't the check come yet? We had the fundraiser in October,” Halkias said. “So that's when I started calling them, that same night. I emailed, I called, no response.
Phone calls, emails were all unanswered, according to Halkias. So Halkias said she called the I-Team, hoping we could help track down their missing money.
“I don't even want to tell the kids yet,” Halkias said. “They don't even know this yet. I know they'll be disappointed. I don't know what to say.”
The I-Team found Fashion Republic online and called all the numbers listed on their website. Nobody called the I-team back.
The I-Team also found dozens of posts on their Facebook page, many from other groups angry that money hadn't arrived as promised. So the I-Team headed to New Jersey. The first address listed in Cranford, New Jersey was locked and empty. But, the I-Team tracked down another possible location in Rahway and found a storefront full of clothes that told us we'd found them.
A man named Thomas pulled of their own records and confirmed what the I-Team told them. That they owed Berlin the money and had never sent it. He disappeared into the back for a few minutes and returned with good news.
“I will send them a check this week on Friday. That's a promise,” Thomas with Fashion Republic said. “We're having some problems with money, so we're paying but we're paying slow.”
Thomas said he also confirmed that many other charity groups are still owed money. He said they intend to pay everyone, eventually. He said Berlin will get their money now because of the I-Team.
“We've been doing this for 20 years, just hard times right now,” Thomas said. “Clothes are not selling that good and the prices went down.”
The people the I-Team spoke with at Fashion Republic were apologetic and said the prices they were getting to resell clothes were down by as much as 90 percent over the past year. He promised to mail that check last Friday. Halkias said she'll tell the I-Team when it arrives.
The company told Eyewitness News that their business had hit hard times and they owed many people money, but promised to pay Berlin.
The check showed up one day after the story aired on Eyewitness News.
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