The state filed a lawsuit last year against John Sandberg and Christina Terraccino, who allegedly raised more than $630,000 and donated less than 1 percent of that amount to Sandy-related causes.
The couple was accused of diverting the donated funds into their own personal accounts, misleading donors with false claims about how the funds would be used and falsely claiming the donations were tax-deductible, the Attorney General's Office said.
“In response to the suffering caused by Superstorm Sandy, donors flocked to this organization in the hope that their money would help storm victims and repair damaged communities,” Hoffman said. "Today, thanks to our investigation and enforcement action, we are ensuring that their charitable good intentions are being carried out."
A settlement was reached in June and a court-appointed organization administrator took control of the account and dissolved the organization.
Sandberg and Terraccino have been permanently barred from soliciting contributions in New Jersey for Superstorm Sandy relief and are barred, for a minimum of two years, from serving in a leadership position in any charitable organization in New Jersey, according to the settlement.
A total of $225,000 was distributed last week to four charitable organizations registered with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, and one organization registered in New York State, specifically for the benefit of Sandy victims.
organizations were selected based on their proposals to specifically use
the money to help Sandy victims. An additional
$100,000 is under final review for distribution in the future.
“Today’s announcement is a victory for donors who gave generously to help families whose lives were torn apart by Superstorm Sandy,” New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Steve Lee said. “As we demonstrated in bringing charges against those involved in price gouging and other scams in Sandy’s wake, we will not tolerate anyone who seeks to profit from the suffering of others.”
The initial distribution of $225,000 from HSRF donations, was made to the following organizations:
- O.C.E.A.N., Inc., of Toms River, received $100,000 to construct
12 three-bedroom, single-family homes in Berkeley Township. The homes
will be rented to Sandy victims. Placements
will be made based on O.C.E.A.N. Inc.’s waiting list for rental
housing, as well as on referrals from the Ocean County Long Term
Recovery Group and Catholic Charities.
- The FoodBank of Monmouth/Ocean Counties, of Neptune, received $50,000 to support its network of food pantries that provide food for thousands of Sandy-affected families.
- The Alliance Center for Independence, of Edison, in partnership with South Carolina-based Portlight Strategies, Inc., received $50,000 for post-Sandy relief projects aiding individuals with disabilities. This will include providing durable medical equipment; the repair or replacement of lifts, elevators and ramps; and other equipment for internal and external accessibility needs.
- Graybeards, Ltd. Based in Rockaway, N.Y., received $25,000 for donations to Sandy-affected individuals in and near the Rockaway Peninsula. This proposal was selected because certain contributions to HSRF were earmarked for Superstorm Sandy relief in New York.