Friday, March 04, 2011

Criminals and Crazies: Crumb Takes a Plea

If you thought the Horse Angels charity fraud case was over, you were wrong.  Though most folks lost interest after the initial filing by the State of New Jersey Attorney General against Sharon Crumb (witness the fact that 1400 people read my blog post of the original filing and only 8 bothered to read the follow-up that detailed her punishment) there was another wrinkle yet to appear. The wrinkle is here. 

While everyone was moving on with their lives, the State wasn't done with Sharon.  Once her effort to defraud the public was confirmed and the extent of her ill-gotten gains was determined, the fraud case--which is a civil matter, as you might recall--was concluded and Criminal Justice stepped in.  Sharon was prosecuted for her crimes. 

The following is the public record of the upshot of that prosecution, which was filed yesterday:


PROSECUTION #2011-03-00068 A
SHARON CATALANO-CRUMB having  in writing waived  indictment  and  trial  by  jury
on  the  charge  of  third  degree  theft  by  deception,  in violation  of N.J.S.A. 2c:20-4  and  having
requested  to be  tried  upon  Accusation  before  this  court, and  said  request  having  been  granted;
Deputy  Attorney  General  Michael  J.  Rappa  of the  Division of Criminal Justice for the
State  of New Jersey,  alleges  that:

(Theft by Deception - Third Degree) 

S HARON CATALANO-CRUMB Between  on or about  September  l,  2009 and  on or about  September  30,  2010 at  the Town of Phillipsburg,  in  the county of Warren, elsewhere,  and  within the  jurisdiction
of this court, did purposely  obtain  property  of another  in an  amount  of $500  or more  by deception.  That  the  said SHARON  CATALANO-CRUMB did purposely  obtain approximately $57,129  in  charitable
contributions from individuals who are known to the state of New Jersey, by creating or reinforcing
the  false  impression  that  the  charitable  contributions  would  be  used  for  the rescue  of horses  and  for the transportation, feeding, boarding and care of rescued horses;

then and  there  well  knew,  the  charitable  contributions would  not  be  used,  for  the  rescue  of horses,  and used  said  money  for her  own  purposes,  ail contrary  to  the  provisions  of N.J.S.A. 2c:20-4 and
N.J.S.A. 2c: 20-4 and  against  the  peace  of  this  state,  the  government  and  dignity  of the


There has been endless discussion online and elsewhere regarding the regulations surrounding charitable organizations and fund-raising in general.  Some folks are still holding out hope that if they collect money under someone's (theirs or someone else's) charitable umbrella, it can be applied to goodies that will benefit them personally.  "But if I don't pay my mortgage, I won't be around to run the rescue operation" does not constitute an acceptable stretch of the mission statement under which you operate.  "I really wanted to travel to ________ to check out their rescue and the travel expenses should be considered business-related" is another totally awesome attempt to illegally siphon cash out of a charitable pot.  You can fill in the rest from what you've seen and heard. 

If you are running a charitable organization of any type or raising funds for one, a squeaky-clean and clear audit trail is the name of the game.  When you applied for your tax-exempt status, you were asked to construct a mission statement that had to receive approval for the IRS to decide you deserved to avoid paying taxes on the income.  If you included personal expenses, it is likely that you did not pass muster.  If you can talk a donor into giving you money specifically for that new whatever that you think will somehow help you function even though it's not directly applicable to the work the charity is assumed to be doing, and if you're willing to pay income tax on the amount because it's truly just that--personal income--more power to you, but make sure you have lots of documentation signed by everyone in triplicate to prove that's what you've done.  Witnesses come out of the woodwork at the least opportune moment. 

Above all, know that criminal prosecution is not a joke.  Sharon Crumb will eventually have to pay to the State all the money she stole in order to avoid incarceration.  If she fails, she will wind up in prison.  Her future is forever stained by this criminal judgment.  If you want yours to fall under the same shadow, that's your choice.  Greed is a hairy, multi-talented monster that tends to fall short as an excuse in court and everywhere else.  Check with Bernie Madoff if you're not clear on that. 

Donors, heed the warning.  It's been offered repeatedly, so if you aren't listening, you are foolish and deserve whatever comes your way.  Know to whom you donate, and keep it local so you can follow up.  Ask for paperwork, receipts, documentation of tax-exempt status...whatever you need to make you happy with your donation.  Don't be shy.  It's your money, and there are a lot of hands reaching for it.

Charities, licit and illicit, if there's more that needs to be said, I can't imagine what that might be.  Go Forth and Clean Thy Books!


Marli said...

Indeed justice does catch up and serve punishment- and like a few have commented (on facebook)- there may be quite a few "cleaning up their acts in the coming days.

I was thinking the same about a few folks "cleaning up their acts this weekend"! Only problem with cleaning up their acts is that it's impossible for a few to "clean their acts up" -->RETRO ACTIVELY<--!

Perhaps if Ms. Crumb is unable to pay retribution to the state and serves jail time- she'll have some company with others that share her interests! ;-)

Cynthia Eliason said...

I hope someone can prosecute HSUS for the same sort of criminal behavior. Hardly any of the donations they get are used for helping animals, and they've been getting away with it for years.

Anonymous said...

So now that the Crumb has fallen, what about ALL the others that were involved with the ill gotten gains? Many others were also using the group and realized what was going on with this group but either chose to ignore or also use the proceeds.

Anonymous said...

There were some who realized one and one weren't adding up... and quickly stepped away and focused their energies on trying to expose her (Crumb). One good samaritan who was given a horse and had it shipped to her in Mississippi phoned said person when she reached Crumb in AC Casino's and was concerned. Not all were in it for the money... and those who were should be ashamed.

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

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Anonymous said...

I would like to know what her punishment was. I thought I read where she would have to pay thousands of dollars or go to jail; and she didn't have the money to pay this amount. She's living in my hometown now and if there are warrants for her arrest I would like to see them get her. And her bf frank wycoff

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

Anonymous, there should be a public record of the final disposition that you can access or request using an OPRA form. I don't have all the details.