CA Attorney General Becerra praises nearly $8.8 million verdict in veterans charity scam
A jury in Northern California has decided the operators of a charity for wounded veterans must pay nearly 9 million dollars to the State of California for keeping millions of dollars in donations for their own financial gain. The judgment is a victory for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra who filed the civil lawsuit last year, following an investigation by the California Department of Justice.
The defendants, all members of the same Fresno framily were accused of conducting misleading and deceptive fundraising on behalf of two charities; Wounded Warriors Support Group and Central Coast Equine Rescue and Retirement, a non-profit with a mission to rescue abused horses. The Attorney General’s office got involved in 2015, after receiving complaints about the raffle run by the Wounded Warrior Support Group.
In digging deeper, investigators say they found much more deception and fraud. According to the State’s complaint, the defendants, Matthew Gregory, his wife Danella and their adult children Matthew and Gina were using donated funds for shopping, rent, travel, dining and paying off their credit cards. Over the span of seven years, the Gregory family collected millions in donations, but Attorney General Xavier Becerra estimated that only $33,000 actually went to the benefit of veterans.
The charity set up for abused horses was also revealed to be a sham. Investigators found no evidence of an equine therapy program that was supposed to be help veterans with post traumatic stress. Instead, they say donations were used by the Gregory children to pay for the keep of their own horses.
According to Tania Ibanez, the assistant Attorney General who helped bring the complaint, “These were not rescued horses. The charity was basically operated to support the horse hobby of the two Gregory siblings.”
Becerra said there are too many groups posing as legitimate charities. To check on an organization which you may want to support, you can go to the Attorney General’s website and see if the charity is listed on the State’s Registry of Charitable Trust.
“We want you to help folks. We want you to help our veterans. Know that you’re giving to an organization that actually does help our veterans,” Becerra said.