Animal Charity That Solicited on Facebook Accused of Pocketing Funds
A lawsuit against Love the Animals, operated by Anthony M. Marasia, alleges Marasia put all funds donated to the company into his personal bank account, failed to tell donors that their contributions weren't tax deductible, and didn't register as a charity, Hawaii Attorney General David M. Louie said in a statement.The lawsuit seeks information on how donated funds were used, restitution for consumers and penalties. The charges follow a five-month investigation.
"Donors want to be sure their contributions benefit the causes they support, but unfortunately some false charities try to take advantage of consumers' goodwill and generosity," Louie said. "We encourage donors to make informed decisions about their charitable giving, and we will continue to vigorously enforce the laws that help protect them."
Marasia told Consumer Ally in an e-mail that he never considered himself a charity or an organization, but rather an individual trying his best to help animals in need. He said he clarified this frequently.
Marasia also claims he never said that contributions to Love the Animals were tax deductible.
"To the contrary, I specified numerous times that donations were not tax deductible and that I was not a 501c3 organization yet," he said. "Regarding the Facebook page, I was not personally involved in setting up the Facebook page or any of the other related websites."
Marasia said state investigators didn't take the time to examine any of his receipts and spending records. "Unfortunately, all of this began with false allegations on Facebook claiming I didn't have any animals and was just trying to scam people for dollars and has led to this lawsuit. I was just following my heart and did not feel I was breaking any laws. I may have been naive, but I am a man of faith and will accept whatever the outcome may be."
Before donating to a charity, check with state officials to see if the charity is registered. Find out how much money it spends on administration and what amount goes to support the charitable activity. See WalletPop's charity coverage for more tips on how to give and not get scammed.
Consumers also should pay by check so they have a record of their contribution.