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Wyckoff-based Sandy charity accused of misusing donations


Wyckoff-based Sandy charity accused of misusing donations
Thursday, February 21, 2013    Last updated: Thursday February 21, 2013, 7:28 PM
The Record

State officials moved on Thursday to halt the operation of a purported charity based in Wyckoff that claimed to benefit victims of superstorm Sandy, saying the people running it misused donations and lied about their charitable status.

The state Division of Consumer Affairs filed a lawsuit in superior court in Hackensack, alleging that the charity, the Hurricane Sandy Relief Foundation, collected $631,000 in donations but has given out only a small fraction of that sum to aid Sandy victims.

Instead, the two people who operate it transferred some of the money to their own bank accounts and used it to pay personal expenses, including heating oil for their home, State Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa said in a statement. They also used some of the money to pay their credit card bills, to purchase items from the online Apple Store and to buy dinner at a Spanish restaurant in Newark, Chiesa said.

The charity’s operators, John Sandberg and Christina Terraccino, who live together in Sparta, allegedly misled potential donors to believe their organization is related to a legitimate charity with a similar name — the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund, whose board chairwoman is Governor Chistie’s wife, Mary Pat. The defendants also falsely claimed their organization was a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charity, Chiesa said.

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