Two New Jersey residents who have been running a purported Superstorm Sandy charity are facing multiple charges after allegedly misleading the public by promising that the funds raised would be used to help hurricane victims, but then diverting thousands of dollars into their own personal bank accounts.

David Matthau, Townsquare Media

An investigation by the State Attorney General’s Office and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs found less than one percent of the money raised by the Hurricane Sandy Relief Foundation has been paid out to help those victimized by Sandy.

John Sandberg and Christina Terraccino, in a lawsuit filed by the state, are accused of multiple violations of New Jersey’s Charitable Registration and Investigation Act, Charities Regulations, Consumer Fraud Act, and Nonprofit Corporation Act.

“New Jersey’s law keeps charities honest, by requiring them to register with the State and provide clear, truthful information when soliciting donations from the public, and this organization told the State it does not pay its executives, but our investigators found a paper trail reflecting thousands of dollars being transferred into the individual defendants’ personal bank accounts,” said State Attorney General Jeff Chiesa.

New Jersey is asking the court to order the defendants to stop soliciting donations, shut down their website, disgorge and repay all funds and property acquired by violating the law, and pay full civil penalties for every violation, among other relief.

As of last month, the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund had raised more than $631,000 in monetary donations from at least 1,999 people, but has disbursed less than one percent of that amount to Sandy-related causes, according to records obtained by the State

The Division of Consumer Affairs is encouraging New Jersey consumers to learn as much as possible about any charity before deciding to make a donation.

They recommend 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 get information about a charity from the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, by visiting the Division's Charities Registration website, calling the Division's Charities Hotline at 973-504-6215 during regular business hours, or by using the Division's free "New Jersey Charity Search" smartphone app.