Donations seized from Hurricane Sandy Relief Foundation (HSRF) will be distributed to victims while ex-owners set up new web business in Costa Rica.
Six months after the state Attorney General agreed to close the doors on Hurricane Sandy Relief Foundation while its assets to Sandy relief groups, remain stuck in legal system.
The couple who started the charity, John Sandberg and Christina Terraccino, are living on Costa Rica’s Gold Coast. Sandberg stared a new Internet marketing consulting firm called Bluespider SEO, that helped HSRF to the top in Google searches results for “Sandy relief,” placing even above American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.
The public accountant in charge of HSRF’s funds says it may take until January to complete the process of fund distribution.
HSRF was able to raise more than $630,000 within just a few months of the super storm which struck on Oct. 29, 2012 storm. The charity claimed to be a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization and hadn’t registered with New Jersey’s Charities Bureau. Initially the Attorney General filed a civil lawsuit against the charity and its operators in February 2013 for violations of the charities code.
The investigation showed that the charity had distributed only $1,650 in gift cards to actual Sandy victims through relief groups. Sandberg and Terraccino insisted it was technical issues in dealing with the flood of donations. The settlement that was reached will deliver approximately $334,000 to other charities. Further, Sandberg and Terraccino may see civil charges of up to $20,000 for each donation received by the unregistered charity.
Very soon after a settlement was finalized, Sandberg, using the name John Russell, was living on Costa Rica’s Gold Coast, starting a new life and a new “business”.
Costa Rica News Site