By Debbie Gregory.
Virginia Senator Mark Warner has called for an IRS investigation into nonprofit Wounded Wheels, which purports to obtain cars for veterans, but hasn’t delivered one single car in three years of operation.
Sen. Warner called for the investigation after a story in the Virginian Pilot revealed the Norfolk-based charity had raised $90,000 from the public over four years but had yet to give away any cars to veterans.
Reality show “FantomWorks,” is about a Virginia auto restoration shop. In the first season, owner Dan Short announced that he had started a nonprofit, Wounded Wheels, dedicated to adapting classic muscle cars for paraplegic war veterans.
The only problem is that the charity has yet to deliver any cars to any veterans since its inception in 2012. Former shop employees have said that the first muscle car that was modified, a 1970 Chevy Chevelle, is unsafe and may be unfit for donation.
“They talk a lot about helping veterans, but to date it doesn’t appear they’ve done anything to help a veteran,” said Daniel Borochoff, president of the watchdog group CharityWatch.
It appears that the only veteran who has seen any benefit is owner Short, a former Green Beret. But Short claims that any monies his for-profit company has received from Wounded Wheels has been for reimbursement for parts and car purchases.
Furthermore, the intention of the non-profit seems to be a bit muddled. Short has said that Wounded Wheels is a research and development company, and that “we never said we were going to be giving all these cars away. That was not in our charter.”
He stated that the charity’s intent was to build prototypes that might someday inspire a major car manufacturer to build wheelchair-accessible muscle cars.
This contradicts the charity’s 2011 articles of incorporation, stating “the corporation shall exclusively operate as a charitable entity to modify vehicles for wheelchair access by service disabled persons.” There is no mention of plans to conduct research or concept development.
It also appears that Short failed to do his homework. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires auto repair shops that modify vehicles for people with disabilities to register with the agency. Neither FantomWorks nor Wounded Wheels is registered with the agency, and Short said he was not aware of the federal requirement.
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Non-profit Fails to Deliver on Promise: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory