This is a sad story because Dawn Cardinal is the founder and president of Destiny’s Road Animal Rescue, Palmer, Massachusetts, USA. She is very successful at raising money. She raised more than $650,000 through a number of online fundraising platforms between December 2014 and March 2018. The rescue has over 40,000 followers on Facebook. So this is a successful animal rescue organisation which is to be praised.
It is particularly sad therefore that the person who founded it is now accused of stealing a significant chunk of donations and spending the money on personal expenses such as dating websites, Netflix, an oxygen bar, hair salon charges, massage, nail and beautician services, gas and car repairs, fast food and restaurant bills and so on and so forth.
In addition the lawsuit claims that Cardinal could not explain how another $253,000 was used. This apparently included a transfer to her personal bank account and other bank accounts. And also $130,000 spent on unexplained goods, services and transfers.
She is also accused of lying about the charity being in debt in fundraising appeals when she had raised $360,000 the year before.
The charity appears to be functioning normally on the Facebook page at the time of this post.
An interesting aspect of the the story is that Cardinal is not being prosecuted in the criminal courts for a crime. The attorney general, Maura Healey, has filed a civil lawsuit against her in the Suffolk Superior Court. The information that I have implies that the state (Massachusetts) or county or city is suing her for a breach of fiduciary duty, unfair and deceptive acts, making false statements, misappropriating charitable assets, failing to properly account for the charity’s funds and failure to file financial statements and reports. In other words it is the authorities rather than an individual who is suing her in the public interest.
This probably emanates from the fact that she is accused of lying about the charity’s income and expenses on annual reports filed with the attorney general’s office.
The lawsuit asks the court to order that Cardinal pays the money back to the charity and return any money that was raised illegally. It also asks the judge to ban Cardinal from acting as a fiduciary (position of trust) in a public charity in the future. As the money has been spent she can’t pay it back in full. That is my assessment.
P.S. There are no pictures of Dawn Cardinal on the internet that I can find and I have searched quite thoroughly. Update: I now have photos. My thanks to the person who sent them.