Friday, February 22, 2013

Sandy Relief Group Sued For Fraud

The founders of a Hurricane Sandy relief group have been sued by the state of New Jersey for allegedly diverting funds for personal use, while victims of the storm supposedly received little money.

John Sandberg and Christina Terracino founded the Hurricane Sandy Relief Foundation (HSRF) in the aftermath of the deadly super storm to help those affected by it. On Thursday, the state Attorney General's Office and the New Jersey Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) filed a lawsuit against the two founders and the Foundation. According to a report in The Asbury Park Press, the suit cites numerous violations of NJ's charity code, including allegedly diverting $17,000 in donated funds to, among other things, pay credit card bills and shop online.

“This organization told the state it does not pay its executives, but our investigators found a paper trail reflecting thousands of dollars being transferred into the individual defendants’ personal bank accounts,” said Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa in a prepared statement. “Meanwhile, less than one percent [$1,650] of the money raised, has allegedly been paid out to help the victims of Sandy.”

According to the Foundation's website, almost $631,000 in cash donations were raised. The state's complaint alleges that nearly $39,000 of that money remains missing.

Other accusations against Sandberg and Terracino include, allegedly:

  • Misleading donors by falsely claiming the Foundation is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) charity; and,
  • Co-opting the name of the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund, which was founded by NJ First Lady Mary Pat Christie.
You can read the full story in The Asbury Park Press.

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