Unregistered Horse Rescue Organization Agrees to Settle Division of Consumer Affairs' Lawsuit
Over Misused Donations
NEWARK—An unregistered charitable organization that solicited donations to supposedly save horses from being killed and processed into pet food will cease operations and pay up to $581,000 to resolve a lawsuit filed against it by the State Division of Consumer Affairs last December.
Defendants NJ Horse Angels and its two trustees, Sharon Catalano-Crumb, 54, and Frank Wikoff, 55, who live in Phillipsburg, N.J., will repay $57,129 in misused donations to the Division of Consumer Affairs. The Division in turn will donate the funds to registered non-profit horse rescue organizations.
An investigation by the Charities Registration and Investigation Section within the Division of Consumer Affairs found that $57,129 in donations were misappropriated by Catalano-Crumb and used by her for trips to Atlantic City casinos, personal shopping, meals, pre-paid phone cards. Monies were also diverted in the form of cash withdrawals. Some donations were used for horse rescues.
Both Catalano-Crumb and Wikoff are permanently barred from soliciting charitable donations in New Jersey. NJ Horse Angels will cease operations and take down its online web pages that were used for soliciting donations, under the terms of the Final Judgment and Consent Order between the defendants and the Division of Consumer Affairs.
"This settlement requires repayment of misused donations and puts the monies to the rescue and care of horses, as donors intended," Attorney General Paula T. Dow said. "Just as important, the defendants are permanently enjoined from soliciting charitable donations."
In addition to repaying misappropriated donations, the defendants are required to pay $23,299 in costs attributed to the investigation.
A total of $500,625 in suspended civil penalties also was assessed. The civil penalties will be vacated after five years if the defendants do not violate the settlement terms, repay the misused donations, and reimburse the investigative costs.
"Using sympathetic stories of horses on the brink of demise, these defendants preyed on human compassion for their personal enrichment," said Thomas R. Calcagni, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. "This resolution puts an end to their scheme, and provides punitive measures to ensure compliance."
NJ Horse Angels operated under several different names, including NJ Horse Angels Rescue, NJ Killpen Horses…Horse Angels of Facebook, Camelot Auction Horse Angels, and The Forgotten Angels. NJ Horse Angels had more than 4,900 registered friends on one social networking Web site.
A searchable database that lists the approximately 20,000 charitable organizations registered by the N.J. Division of Consumer Affairs can be found online at www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/charity/chardir.htm/ . A financial synopsis is posted online for each registered organization. Additional information and copies of complete financial filings can be obtained by calling the Charities Registration Unit at 973-504-6215.
Calcagni noted that registered charitable organizations are required to file annual financial disclosures with the Division of Consumer Affairs. A listing of the Top Ten most inquired about charities in the State, and information on how those and other charitable organizations spend donations, can be found at www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/charity/inquired/ .
Deputy Attorneys General Anna M. Lascurain, Chief of the Securities Fraud Prosecution Section, and Elizabeth R. Lash, represented the state in this matter. Volunteer attorney Aris Dutka assisted. Investigator Patrick Mullan in the Division's Office of Consumer Protection conducted the investigation.
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