LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Two major Southern California-based charities are under fire by the state attorney general, who says the groups were keeping charity money for lavish salaries.

Ventura’s “Cars 4 Causes” and North Hollywood’s “People’s Choice Charities” are accused of pocketing money made from car donations, and are now facing a lawsuit by the state.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris, along with the Los Angeles County and Ventura County District Attorney Offices, filed suits against the two groups, who had promised to sell donated cars and give the money to other charities.

While People’s Choice Charities claims that 100 percent of sale proceeds go to various charities, the lawsuit alleges that 97 percent of that money has gone to advertising and administrative costs, including salaries.

Cars 4 Causes, meanwhile, claims on their website that they’ll get most money from each donation, but Harris’ office found that only 13 percent went to actual charities, while millions of dollars went into ads and employee salaries.

Donors to various charities, such as Debbie Lopez, are disheartened by the news.

“I expect that at least 85 percent of the money that I’m donating actually goes to help people,” Lopez said.

Other donors say they have learned to research charities in depth before giving any money.

“I know that there are some that take too much for administrative charges, and I won’t give to any of those,” donor Jeanne Moody stated.

The attorney general’s office recommends either giving directly to a charity, or, if a car donation organization is used, follow up with the charity itself to make sure they received the money.

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