Thursday, March 22, 2012

Special Edition: Another Rescue Squeaks By and a Caveat is Born

Below is the approved press release for the conclusion of the investigation of the Arabian Rescue Mission, Theresa Figueroa, and her partner, Cynthia ("CJ") Millar.  By way of explanation, what the State found after examining the financial records of the rescue was that the operators had done what by now we all know is a no-no: they commingled funds.  The funds received as donations wound up being mingled with the funds being used to support the boarding business on the same property and the equine supplements business.   Both parties will be repaying the amounts they owe to the legitimate charitable arm of ARM, and as soon as they do,  all will be forgiven.  They may have screwed up, but they have not truly been evildoers on the level of some of the earlier problem rescue groups. 

Bad word, "commingled".  If there's one thing horse people around the country should have learned in the past two years it's that word.  Sharon Crumb of The Horse Angels commingled donations with a personal checking account, a few AC casinos, and a White Supremacist group, bringing the term into the limelight.  How quickly we forget.

Still, Terry and CJ are making it right, and that's a very, very good thing.  Once they do, I'm sure their supporters will once again toss their coffee money into the pot and the rescued horses will benefit.  Questionable accounting practices should, at this point, die a natural death among all rescue groups everywhere.

But there's an additional warning here.  Another "rescue" (and I use that term very lightly and withhold the name for the time being) kinda, sorta borrowed ARM's tax ID number and went about merrily collecting donations without benefit of legal charity status.  Whether this was with or without ARM's knowledge isn't made clear in the Consent Order, so I'll have to get back to you on that.

Really?  An unscrupulous rescue person?  Can it be?  Say it isn't so! [sigh]

With that, I leave you to read the details of the case for yourself and remind you that the State's "Investigate BEFORE You Donate" initiative wasn't supposed to be just a fun phrase to use at parties. 


New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Reaches Settlement
With Sussex County Horse Rescue Charity

NEWARK - The State Division of Consumer Affairs has settled its investigation of an unregistered charity that rescues horses, with two trustees of the organization agreeing to pay $6,000 back to the organization, under terms of the Consent Order.

Therese A. Figueroa, 55, and Cynthia J. Millar, 36, both of Branchville, each have paid $3,000 to The Arabian Rescue Mission, Inc. (“ARM”). Both are trustees of ARM.

ARM, which operates a facility in Wantage Township, has never been registered as a charitable organization with the Division of Consumer Affairs as required. During its investigation, the Division determined that Figueroa and Millar commingled charitable donations with payments made to a for-profit stable operating on the same Wantage Township property as the horse rescue organization.

Additionally, the for-profit stable charged ARM for boarding and feeding horses, but payments records were inconsistent and incomplete.

“Potential donors did not receive, and could not get, the financial transparency from this organization that they are entitled to,” Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa said. “The Arabian Rescue Mission now is registered and it will annually report financial information required under state law.”

ARM's federal taxpayer identification number was used by other organizations unaffiliated with it, the investigation found.

A $25,000 civil penalty assessed against ARM, Figueroa, and Millar is suspended but can be reinstated if the terms of the Consent Order are not met.

“We've increased the public's focus on how charities use contributions through our ongoing 'Investigate Before You Donate' initiative,” said Thomas R. Calcagni, Director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs. “Consumers should always check whether a charity is registered to solicit donations in New Jersey, and how those donations are spent.”

The “Investigate Before You Donate” initiative launched last year includes a bi-monthly report on the 10 most inquired about charities at the Division's Charities Registration Section. The report for each charity details spending on the charitable program's purpose, fundraising, and management/general expenses.

Anna Lascurain, Special Deputy in Litigation, represented the State in this matter. Supervising Investigator Larry Biondo and Investigator Patrick Mullan in the Charities and Fundraising Fraud Unit conducted the investigation.

The Division's Charities Hotline may be reached at 973-504-6215 during regular business hours.

Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey ) or 973-504-6200.

1 comment:

TIFFANY said...

While i certainly don't condone the actions of ARM by any means, i find it interesting that they were swiftly investigated and forced to pay the $ back to ARM. Yet in 99.9% of animal abuse/neglect cases, where not only is the animal made to suffer, usually the rescue and rehab costs are huge to whoever saves them, the guilty party gets off with a slap on the wrist..AND SOMETIMES GETS THEIR REHABBED HORSES HANDED RIGHT BACK TO THEM! (happened in Maryland last month) Why are there not stiffer penalties for the abusers? Probably because the government isn't losing money from their crimes. That all being said, i do believe that scam rescues should be brought down to protect the real ones.