Danish Cult Could Be Illegally Placing Donation Boxes on S.F. Sidewalks
"I left for work one day, everything was normal. And I came back, I see this fucking ugly box the size of a car on the sidewalk," he says.
The yellow boxes are the property of US'Again, a for-profit front company that a 2001 Danish extradition affidavit says is secretly operated by Mogens Amdi Pedersen, a fugitive from justice. He's sought by Interpol on allegations of money laundering, tax evasion, and fraud. Pedersen is monitored by cult watch groups such as the Rick A. Ross Institute, and is described by ex-followers as a charismatic leader with a fanatic's verve for secrecy and control.
In June I wrote about how Campus California, a nonprofit with ties to Pedersen, was part of a global network of shell organizations that was making profit on the developing world sale of used clothing. Campus California is apparently one of several groups, including US'Again, with ties to Pedersen.
According to Pedersen's business model, clothing donated by people in San Francisco and other U.S. and European cities is shipped to Latin America and Africa, where it is sold at a profit. The money makes it into offshore accounts controlled by Pedersen, who was extradited from the U.S. to Denmark a decade ago before he fled to avoid legal proceedings.
Stevens, however, was mostly concerned about the fact that a big green donation box had been placed at 26th Street at Guererro, not far from a Salvation Army branch, which he thought might make better use of the donations.
"I know the owner of the laundromat on my block. I said, 'Dude, what's up with the box?' He said, 'I have no idea,'" Stevens recalls. "This can't be correct that someone can drop a box on the sidewalk and leave."
Following an inquiry with US'Again, I received a call from a PR firm representing the company. I left a message, and will post their input when we hear back.
[Update, 9/03/11, 12:11 p.m.]
After some phone tag, we had a conversation with Margaret Sullivan, with the PR firm Group SJR. Here are some excerpts:
Sullivan: I can tell you there is no connection between US'Again and the cult you mention. It's an independent company based on Chicago. It's American owned and operated.
Snitch: What role does Mattias Wallander play with US'Again.
Sullivan: He's CEO.
Snitch: In 2009 he told Seattle's KIRO TV that he was a member of the Teacher's Group. What does that mean?
Sullivan: I don't know anything about his personal connection to the Teacher's Group. I don't have an answer to that. It's his, uh, personal life. It's not connected to the company or the business.
Snitch: How can you say that, when a key ethos of the Teachers Group is to share everything with the core group surrounding Mogens Amdi Pedersen?
Sullivan: I'm not familiar with that. But I can find out more information. But I believe those charges were dropped.
Snitch: Pedersen is an international fugitive.
Sullivan: Let me get you more information. As far as the personal life of the CEO, I can't speak for him on behalf of that. What I can tell you is it's not accurate to say US'Again drops bins around without permission. The marketing department is very careful...
Snitch: (Interrupting) Can you show me the San Francisco City and County permits for the bins?
Sullivan: I can try to.
Snitch: Great. Let me give you my fax number.
We'll update you when we hear back again from Sullivan.
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