Horse Rescue Charity That Collected on Facebook to Pay Back Donations

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a horse out to pasture - horse charity, facebookAn unregistered New Jersey charity that used Facebook and website pleas to gather donations to save horses from slaughter will repay $57,129 to the state and be shut down as part of a lawsuit settlement, New Jersey's Attorney General's office said.

In December, the state sued NJ Horse Angels and its two trustees, Sharon Catalano-Crumb and Frank Wikoff over the donations, alleging Catalano-Crumb used the charity funds to fuel a lifestyle that included Atlantic City casino trips, shopping and meals. Some of the donations were used for horse rescues, the state said.

Neither Catalano-Crumb nor Wikoff could be reached for comment. A number listed for Wikoff was no longer in service.NJ Horse Angels had several different names including NJ Horse Angels Rescue, NJ Killpen Horse, Horse Angels of Facebook, Camelot Auction Horse Angels and The Forgotten Angels. NJ Horse Angels had almost 5,000 friends on its Facebook page at one point -- about $145,000 total was donated to the group between September 2009 and September 2010.

As part of the lawsuit settlement, NJ Horse Angels will shut down and Catalano-Crumb and Wikoff are banned from soliciting for charities in New Jersey. The money to be repaid will be donated to state-registered nonprofit horse rescue groups.

"This settlement requires repayment of misused donations and puts the monies to the rescue and care of horses, as donors intended," Attorney General Paula T. Dow said in a statement. "Just as important, the defendants are permanently enjoined from soliciting charitable donations."

Also as part of the settlement, the charity has to pay $23,299 in investigation costs. If NJ Horse Angels doesn't meet the conditions of the settlement it will be fined another $500,625.

"Using sympathetic stories of horses on the brink of demise, these defendants preyed on human compassion for their personal enrichment," said Thomas R. Calcagni, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs in a statement.
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