The Office of the Attorney General and Division of Consumer Affairs in New Jersey have filed suit against an unregistered charitable organization that solicited donations to supposedly save horses from being killed and processed into pet food, but used a significant amount of funds to pay the personal expenses of its two trustees. The state’s seven-count lawsuit, filed in State Superior Court in Essex County, alleges that NJ Horse Angels and its two trustees, Sharon Catalano-Crumb and Frank Wikoff, used internet social networking sites to raise approximately $145,132 from donors between September 2009 and September 2010.
An investigation found that at least $61,422 in donations were misappropriated by Catalano-Crumb and used by her for trips to Atlantic City casinos, personal shopping, meals, pre-paid phone cards and cash withdrawals. She allegedly bought jewelry for Wikoff, who is her boyfriend and a convicted felon, and also sent cash to her son who is serving a life sentence at Trenton State Prison. An additional $9,000 is presently unaccounted for, as the investigation continues. The investigation did find that some of the donations were used to rescue, transport and care for horses.
NJ Horse Angels, based in Phillipsburg, N.J., and Catalano-Crumb, 54, and Wikoff, 55, are charged with multiple violations of the state’s Charitable Registration and Investigation Act. The lawsuit seeks restitution for donors, closure of NJ Horse Angels and the barring of Catalano-Crumb and Wikoff from working for any charitable organization in New Jersey, in addition to imposition of civil penalties. They both reside in Phillipsburg.
"We allege that these defendants defrauded donors for their own personal enrichment. It’s unfortunate that animal lovers and other well-meaning donors fell victim to a con woman who used horse photos and sob stories posted online to tug at their hearts and to open their wallets," said Attorney General Paula T. Dow.
NJ Horse Angels operated under several different names, including NJ Horse Angels Rescue, NJ Killpen Horses, Horse Angels of Facebook, Camelot Auction Horse Angels, and The Forgotten Angels. The common claim was that horses fated to be sold and sent to slaughterhouses for processing into pet food would be saved and then cared for by NJ Horse Angels through donations. Donations to all of these organizations ended up in Catalano-Crumb’s personal bank account.