An ambitious Crown Heights dad thought he could turn toilet paper into gold by clipping thousands of coupons worth a six-figure sum.
Instead, Nechemia Newman is stuck in a swelling scandal with the makers of Scott bath tissue investigating whether he cheated when he sent in more than 300,000 box tops worth about $200,000 which would go to schools of his choice.
Newman, 33, spent months cutting out coupons, worth up to 50 cents each, hoping his son’s yeshiva and four other private Jewish schools across Brooklyn could collect a windfall of cash.
But Newman may have run afoul of the rules when he got help from a businessman who handed over thousands of Box Tops.
“I feel this is a just cause. Everything was done by the book. There was no monkey business,” said Newman, who insists the company miscalculated and that he only sent in about 75,000 box tops. “We had a team of parents helping. I created a network. People were excited. We were working hard thinking we would get this big donation.”
The father of four dreamed up the plan two years ago watching his wife cut out coupons, called Box Tops for Education from the backs of cereal boxes and on other products such as boxes of diapers.
Parents across the country collect the clippings mailing them into companies which pay schools up to a dollar for each piece.
“My son’s school needs a new roof. Every time it rains, it leaks,” said Newman, who tracked down the toilet paper wholesaler for help.
The wholesaler, who sells Scott toilet tissue to Brooklyn delis and corner stores, gives any unused wrappings with a Box Top to Newman.
“He buys truckloads and repackages them. He supplies the bodegas and throws out all the packaging,” Newman said.
Scott officials started getting garbage bags filled with Newman’s clipped Box Tops about nine months ago and immediately flagged the shipments.
“We had such an extraordinarily high number of coupons redeemed by one person,” said spokesman Bob Brand. “We still need to figure out if the coupons were gathered appropriately.
Until we are comfortable with verifying how this was obtained we are not in a position to pay.”
Scott is using a private investigator to get to the bottom of the coupon caper, Brand said..
The company wants to talk to Newman’s wholesaler hook-up, but the wholesaler fears the toilet paper maker will stop working with him if he speaks out.
“I don’t want to ruin my business over this,” the wholesaler said. “I was trying to do this as a charity. Once they sell me the product, we can do whatever we want with it.”
Now, the yeshivas are either hoping Newman wins the toilet tissue battle or have deemed him a grifter and have stopped returning his calls.
“I don’t think what he did was wrong,” said Rabbi Eliyohu Davis, head of the United Lubavitcher Yeshiva on Crown Street in Crown Heights. Newman’s son is a second grader there.
“I say more power to him. He did it trying to help the school,” Davis said.
Rabbi Leib Kelman, head of the Prospect Park Yeshiva on Ave. R in Sheepshead Bay called Newman’s operation a “scam.”
“It’s an illegal campaign,” Kelman said. “The source of these items are not legitimate. The company doesn’t know where it came from. These people are delusional.”