Friday, December 03, 2010

When Charities Go Bad: The Case Against the NJ Horse Angels

Zip can hardly believe his ears
 No one, least of all honest people who, in a tough economy, send open-hearted donations to charities they believe are in the business of helping the unfortunate, likes to hear that their money has gone astray and their good intentions have been subverted.  Sometimes stuff like what I'm going to share here shakes us to the bone, leaving us wondering if there's anything people won't do to each other for the sake of greed.  The answer appears to be, "No!"

For several months, the State of NJ's Consumer Affairs Department of Charity Fraud has been meticulously scouring hundreds of documents (the paypal transactions alone numbered over 2000) released to them by the principles involved (usually after an unpleasant encounter with a subpoena, but sometimes voluntarily) doing what is known in the parlance as a "Follow the Money" survey of the facts surrounding the grand horse rescue effort that took form on Facebook under the fine hands of Sharon Catalano-Crumb, the NJ Horse Angels, the Camelot Horse Angels, and various other combinations and permutations of those names.  What I have on my desk right now is about 40 pounds of paper representing the public record of that investigation. 

In summary, this woman and her cohort--her live-in boyfriend, her imprisoned felon son, that son's childhood buddy currently on probation, and the cadre of rabid fans she gathered around her to protect her from scrutiny--launched a campaign in September of '09 which raised "at least $145,132.08 purportedly to rescue horses from slaughter between September 2009 and September 2010" [p 2 of 28 of 12 3 10 Filed Verified Complaint against SHARON CATALANO-CRUMB, individually and as a trustee of NJ Horse Angels a/k/a njhorseangelsrescue.org a/k/a NJ Horse Angels Rescue a/k/a NJ Killpen Horses ... Horse Angels of Facebook a/k/a Camelot Auction Horse Angels a/k/a The Forgotten Angels, FRANK WIKOFF, individually and as a trustee of NJ Horse Angels a/k/a njhorseangelsrescue.org a/k/a NJ Horse Angels Rescue a/k/a NJ Killpen Horses....Horse Angels of Facebook a/k/a Camelot Auctoin Horse Angels a/k/a The Forgotten Angels, NJ HORSE ANGELS, NJHORSEANGELSRESCUE.ORG, NJ KILLPEN HORSES....HORSE ANGELS OF FACEBOOK, CAMELOT AUCTION HORSE ANGELS, THE FORGOTTEN ANGELS a New Jersey non-profit organization, defendants]. 

That's a lot of cash.  It's a lot of coffee money.  It's a lot of Oh, the Poor Baybeez!  And it's a lot of scam because though some of the donations did, indeed, go to the intended purpose (assumed by the State because evidence to the contrary has not yet been uncovered), there is documentation to show that by shifting cash through two different paypal accounts and in and out of personal checking and savings accounts, some $60K went for such intriguing "rescue costs" as charitable contributions to casinos in Atlantic City, an aluminum wheelchair for a dog and an electric one for Frank Wikoff, a TrySensa.com weight loss program, two (guess that's one for each hand--balance is critical in bling) rings for Wikoff, phone cards for Christopher Crumb (guess he needed to call his mom from prison more often), heating oil, rent, and on and on and on.  Another $9000 is MIA. 

Now, there has been a lot said on all sides of this case over the months since the fraud was uncovered.  I know there are still hangers-on who believe that their Fearless Leader only spent a few dollars on herself and that was a simple error in judgment.  The other charities that funneled donations through the Working4them paypal account are, I would imagine, a little sheepish about now, particularly the ones that ranted at length recently about the donor being responsible for vetting out the charities before sending money while at the same time listing the Horse Angels as a chosen and supported friend.   Believe what you will.  A pizza delivery paid for out of the personal account that the paypal funds were funneling to prior to the opening of the Horse Angels' business account may have been an error in judgment.  It's awfully hard to just write off the rest of the expenditures with an "Oops!  My bad..." defense.

I would dearly love to share here all the gory details, but the .pdf files I have are view-only, so cut-and-paste is out and I'm not enough of a Horse Angels fan to retype 60 pages of court documents.  The paperwork is available to the public, and I urge anyone who's interested to call the NJAG's Press Office at 973-504-6327.  Please do NOT call the attorneys involved.  They are busy people with bigger problems than this one on their plates and, thanks to the phone/email/snail mail campaign launched a few weeks ago at the behest of someone who knew what chaos it would cause, those busy people are short-tempered these days on this subject. 

In the end, the big question may never be answered...at least not by this investigation.  Where are the horses?  Only about 17 were actually located.  Hundreds were "bailed" (I still hate that misuse...they're bought and sold, not "bailed" as if they were in prison), but the trails fade out somewhere outside the DAG's jurisdiction.  Of course there's already some awareness that this group bought and gifted horses to themselves and their intimates.  There is a record of a few of those is you're willing to scour whatever posts on Facebook weren't deleted.  More poignant than the rehoming question, though, is the series of statements in the court document that reveal that money was raised for veterinary care for sick horses, and that Ms. Crumb refused to allow the horses to be treated.  "Refused".  That's the word in the document.  To wit [p 11 of 28]:

71.  In addition, on at least one occasion, Crumb and the NJ Horse Angels specifically solicited and raised funds for veterinary care for rescued horses.

72.  On at least one occasion, Crumb and NJ Horse Angels refused to pay for veterinary care, despite having solicited and raised funds for veterinary care,  purportedly because the NJ Horse Angels had no funds available to pay for veterinary care.

  The papers read like a Who's Who in the Camelot rescue biz.  As I type, I'm hearing that the media have already got the story.  Google it.  Try and of the names above.  You'll be enlightened, I guarantee.  Lehigh Valley Live online has the full report.  ABC News has contacted the Press Office.  Others will follow.  This is one pony tale that shouldn't be ignored. 

13 comments:

Adirondackcountrygal said...

Shameful behavior.. glad I never donated to her.

Anonymous said...

now if we can only get them to investigate a certain ohio and pennsylvania "rescue"

Stacy said...

You can read about her wonderful son and his crimes against humanity here:

http://caselaw.findlaw.com/nj-superior-court-appellate-division/1208958.html

and here:

http://nj.findacase.com/research/wfrmDocViewer.aspx/xq/fac.%2FSAC%2FNJ%2F1994%2F19941122_0040123.NJ.htm/qx

Stacy said...

Her sons crimes against humnity:

http://caselaw.findlaw.com/nj-superior-court-appellate-division/1208958.html

And here:

http://nj.findacase.com/research/wfrmDocViewer.aspx/xq/fac.%2FSAC%2FNJ%2F1994%2F19941122_0040123.NJ.htm/qx

Anonymous said...

It is truly sad that the horses have to suffer due to someone's greed. I have one of the horses rescued through the horse angels, so I guess that I should consider myself lucky that I didn't get scammed.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, me and thousands like me were scammed by this hard core heartless bitch. As many have said, always inquire, ask and research, which I did before I sent donations. This woman showed paperwork stating she was a nonprofit organization, she showed the paperwork on her page. Should I feel stupid? Probably, but with such evidence, what can I say. I was scammed. More importantly, it was about the rescue of horses. How sad so that so many were sacrificed because of her greed. What I am truly angry about is so many horses lost out on homes and care. If I could, I would kick this bitches ass, her and her mangy crew. I only hope that the Universal Law will prevail. Bottom line she is a piece of shit along with her son, boyfriend and anyone else who knew of her scam. Sorry if I have offended anyone with my language, but it is what it is and I am angry. I am heartbroken about the horses.

Anonymous said...

This is absolute bullshit and she should be held accountable for everything. To sum up in a few words.... Many people do without so that a few horses can have a chance at a better life. She denied many horses of this by being selfish and looking out for herself instead of what she subposably stood for as a horse rescue! I believe what goes around comes around. Karma is a bitch... Pardon my French! She will get her's!

joaniey said...

I think this is a sad situation for the horses. They are the losers in this. Now when this hits the news and spreads a lot of people will not understand what happened and the rescues that are legitimate and are saving horses are going to suffer. This is not a time for I told you so's, but rather a time to pull together and figure out damage control. Let the law do it's job.

Anonymous said...

Are we sure this it the real name of the rescue? Sounds suspiciously like another PA rescue that I would love to have investigated....it seems no one ever really wants to get involved.

Joanne Friedman, Freelance Writer, ASEA Certified Equine Appraiser, Owner Gallant Hope Farm said...

Anonymous, it's ironic that you commented that no one wants to get involved. LOL

Yes, this is the real name of the rescue, and the court documents--at least the complaint portion--are available online for the public's viewing pleasure.

I would hope that this information will spur the people who have documented evidence against ANY rescue or ANY charitable organization anywhere to move forward with it and contact the necessary authorities. No one is ever held accountable if no one steps up and points a finger at the wrongdoing. I am awed by the strength of the people who, despite threats by Crumb and others, did what they felt had to be done.

Remember, the wheels of the law grind slowly. By the time someone decides to become a witness on the record, months will have gone by. Don't wait. The time to act is when you feel the first tingling of "this can't be right".

Anonymous said...

Sadly not surprising. I've donated to a local rescue before only to find the $ went to the directors personal expenses. Now she is back at it again... new rescue. Using funds for personal horses claiming they are rehabs and likely personal expenses since she was fired from her job earlier this year. I hate how a few bad apples truly spoil it.

Anonymous said...

Sadly not surprising. I've donated to a local rescue before only to find the $ went to the directors personal expenses. Now she is back at it again... new rescue. Using funds for personal horses claiming they are rehabs and likely personal expenses since she was fired from her job earlier this year. I hate how a few bad apples truly spoil it.

Joanne Friedman, Freelance Writer, ASEA Certified Equine Appraiser, Owner Gallant Hope Farm said...

รจ il mio piacere io felice potrebbe aiutare.