– The Office of the Attorney General
and Division of Consumer Affairs have filed
suit against an unregistered charitable
organization that solicited donations to
supposedly save horses from being killed
and processed into pet food, but used a
significant amount of funds to pay the personal
expenses of its two trustees.
state’s seven-count lawsuit, filed
in State Superior Court in Essex County,
alleges that NJ Horse Angels and its two
trustees, Sharon Catalano-Crumb and Frank
Wikoff, used internet social networking
sites to raise approximately $145,132 from
donors between September, 2009 and September,
2010. An investigation by the Charities
Registration and Investigation Section within
the Division of Consumer Affairs found that
at least $61,422 in donations were misappropriated
by Catalano-Crumb and used by her for trips
to Atlantic City casinos, personal shopping,
meals, pre-paid phone cards and cash withdrawals.
She allegedly bought jewelry for Wikoff,
who is her boyfriend and a convicted felon,
and also sent cash to her son who is serving
a life sentence at Trenton State Prison.
additional $9,000 is presently unaccounted
for, as the investigation continues.
Horse Angels, based in Phillipsburg, N.J.,
and Catalano-Crumb, 54, and Wikoff, 55,
are charged with multiple violations of
the state’s Charitable Registration
and Investigation Act. The lawsuit seeks
restitution for donors, closure of NJ Horse
Angels and the barring of Catalano-Crumb
and Wikoff from working for any charitable
organization in New Jersey, in addition
to imposition of civil penalties. They both
reside in Phillipsburg.
allege that these defendants defrauded donors
for their own personal enrichment,”
Attorney General Paula T. Dow said. “It’s
unfortunate that animal lovers and other
well-meaning donors fell victim to a con
woman who used horse photos and sob stories
posted online to tug at their hearts and
to open their wallets.”
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. The common claim was that horses
fated to be sold and sent to slaughterhouses
for processing into pet food would be saved
and then cared for by NJ Horse Angels through
donations. NJ Horse Angels had more than
4,900 registered friends on one social networking
investigation by the Division of Consumer
Affairs found that Catalano-Crumb commingled
donations in her personal bank account.
The investigation also found that some of
the donations were used to rescue, transport
and care for horses.
case illustrates how con artists can use
sad stories and photos posted on social
networking sites to defraud donors,”
said Thomas R. Calcagni, Acting Director
of the State Division of Consumer Affairs.
“Our Charities Registration Unit is
a resource that consumers can use to steer
clear of individuals who mask their scams
under the pretense of being a charity.”
noted that registered charitable organizations
are required to file annual financial disclosures
with the Division of Consumer Affairs.
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.
Attorneys General Anna M. Lascurain, Chief
of the Securities Fraud Prosecution Section,
and Elizabeth R. Lash, are representing
the state in this matter. Volunteer attorney
Aris Dutka is assisting. Investigator Patrick
Mullan conducted the investigation.