NEWARK – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Division of Consumer Affairs (the “Division”) today announced that a Mercer County woman and the horse rescue charity she founded have agreed to permanently cease soliciting contributions in New Jersey and pay civil penalties to resolve allegations they accepted more than $340,000 in contributions in violation of state charity laws.
Dina Alborano, of Hamilton, and her “I Care I Help” thoroughbred rescue organization used the internet and social media platforms to solicit charitable contributions for the purported purpose of saving former racehorses from the slaughterhouse. In 2018, I Care I Help accepted more than $330,000 in donations via PayPal and personal checks. In 2017, the organization took in $12,000.
An investigation launched by the Division revealed, among other things, that I Care I Help has never been registered as a charitable organization with the Division, as required by law.
The Division also determined that between November 2017 and December 2018, $344,290 in donations were commingled in personal accounts controlled by Alborano and a man with whom she lives.
The Division alleges that Alborano and I Care I Help solicited contributions for a purpose other than the charitable purpose expressed, and expended contributions in a manner inconsistent with the charitable purpose, in violation of the New Jersey Charitable Registration and Investigation Act and the regulations governing charitable fundraising.
“So many charities in New Jersey do incredible work to serve good causes,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Unfortunately, a small number of bad actors exploit donors’ good intentions in order to pocket charitable contributions for themselves. Our Division of Consumer Affairs enforces our charities laws to give potential donors confidence that their donations will be used as advertised, so that donors can give to charitable organizations generously and confidently.”
“Donors were led to believe that the money they contributed to I Care I Help would be used to purchase thoroughbred horses bound for the slaughterhouse and pay for the animals’ care while they awaited adoption into permanent homes,” said Howard Pine, Acting Director of the Division. “Instead, donor funds were funneled into bank accounts controlled by Alborano and an acquaintance and it’s unclear from the records kept just how much of that money was actually used for rescuing horses.”
As part of the settlement, Alborano agreed to pay civil penalties of $5,000. She has also represented that all funds possessed by I Care I Help when it was shut down – approximately $17,000 – have been donated to a registered 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
Ms. Alborano is also permanently barred from holding a leadership position within, or soliciting contributions for, any New Jersey charity.
Under New Jersey law, statements made in charitable fundraising must be truthful, and money raised must be spent consistent with the charitable purpose of the organization and consistent with the statements made when making the solicitation/request for funds. Charitable organizations raising over $10,000 in any year generally must register with the Division.
Requiring charities to register provides the Division of Consumer Affairs with the ability to monitor that charities are conducting business in compliance with consumer protection laws and regulations. Registration also provides consumers with information that will help them make educated decisions regarding their charitable donations.
The Division, through its “Investigate Before You Donate” campaign, encourages New Jersey consumers to learn as much as possible about any charity before deciding to make a donation. Consumers should:
- Find out whether the charity is registered in New Jersey, or is exempt from having to register.
- Find out how much the charity spent during recent fiscal years on program costs, management costs, and fundraising.
- Learn about the charity’s stated mission.
Consumers can seek information about a charity from the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. Visit the Division’s Charities Registration page; call the Division’s Charities Hotline at 973-504-6215 during regular business hours; or use the Division’s free “New Jersey Charity Search” smartphone app. Charitable organizations that have failed to register may not appear in the Division’s records.
Consumers are encouraged to report suspicious solicitations to their local police and to the Division of Consumer Affairs at 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or file a complaint on the Division’s website.
Investigator Brian Penn of the Office of Consumer Protection within the Division of Consumer Affairs conducted this investigation.
Deputy Attorney General Jesse J. Sierant of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section within the Division of Law represented the State in this matter.