Charity Claims Brazen Rival Stole Its Stuff

     AUSTIN (CN) – A nonprofit, charitable thift store claims in court that a competitor stole 50 of its clothing-donation boxes under cover of darkness, and sold them, contents and all, to other companies – and it says the rival’s owner “freely admitted” it.
     Brook Valley Thrift Stores, which also does business as Texas Thrift Store, sued Assetrack Corp. and its operator, Eugene J. Kuykendall Jr., of Houston, in Travis County Court.
     Texas Thrift claims that one of its contractors “caught defendant Eugene J. Kuykendall Jr. seizing one of Texas Thrift’s donation boxes” near Austin in January 2011.
     The complaint continues: “Defendant Kuykendall freely admitted to Texas Thrift that he had been seizing its donation boxes, including the contents thereof, from around Travis County, and selling the unlawfully seized donation boxes to other companies. Defendant Kuykendall claimed he had the authority of the property owners to remove Texas Thrift’s donation boxes, but only one such written authorization ever materialized and the purported authorizing official did not have the authority to order the removal.
     “Amazingly, defendant Kuykendall then offered to sell Texas Thrift’s donation boxes back to Texas Thirft.”
     Texas Thrift says that because the boxes must be built to protect the donations from the elements, each box costs more than $1,000 to build and maintain.
     “Defendant Kuykendall provided no notice that he was going to seize or remove donation boxes,” the complaint states. “In many, or all, instances, defendant Kuykendall attempted to use the cover of darkness to seize or remove Texas Thrift’s donation boxes. Defendant Kuykendall operates defendant Assetrack Corporation and uses Assetrack Corporation to sell or convey ownership of the donation boxes.”
     After losing 50 donation boxes, Texas Thrift says, it sent a cease-and desist letter to the defendants, in February this year. “In the two weeks after the cease-and-desist notice was issued to defendants, six more donation boxes were seized,” the complaint states. “To this day, defendants have neither returned to donation nboxes to Texas Thrift nor compensated Texas Thrift for the unlawful seizure.”
     Texas Thrift seeks an injunction, costs, actual damages and exemplary damages for for conversion, trespass to chattels and theft.
     It is represented by Sean Breen with Howry Breen & Herman of Austin.
     Texas Thrift says in its complaint that it sells the used clothing and other items it collects in the boxes, and donates the profits to charities.
     (Although the complaint does not mention it, sale of used clothes from the United States is an enormous business in Mexico. Mexican officials periodically seize tons of it, often claiming that it has been smuggled into the country after being donated to charitable institutions.)

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