Donations allegedly support equestrian’s horses
California’s attorney general is seeking to recoup at least $500,000 from two fraudulent horse-related charities. The Gregory family claims to rescue horses and help injured veterans through a therapeutic riding program, but the state says it is all a scam.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed suit this week against Central Coast Equine Rescue and Retirement (CCERR), Wounded Warriors Support Group (WWSG), and members of the Gregory family. The state is seeking damages, civil penalties, and an involuntary dissolution of both charities.
Becerra is also seeking an order to prevent the Gregory family, including self-professed grand-prix show jumping trainer Gina Danielle Gregory, of Pebble Beach, from operating any California charity in the future.
The lawsuit alleges Matthew G. Gregory, his wife Danella, and their adult children Matthew J. Gregory, and Gina, run raffles earmarked to support veterans but spend the donations on their hobbies. The complaint also names the husband’s Fresno business, Gregory Motorsports, which sells Shelby Cobras.
Central Coast Equine Rescue and Retirement
The Central Coast Equine Rescue and Retirement received its tax-exempt status from the IRS in 2012. The complaint states equestrian Gina is responsible for the day-to-day operations of CCERR. That includes fundraising and managing donations raised by Wounded Warriors Support Group (WWSG) that are given to CCERR to support a therapeutic equestrian program.
Donations totaling more than $780,000 for 2014 and 2015 were not used for equine therapy, saving horses, or helping veterans.
Bank statements show the funds were used to pay for the Gregory family’s personal expenses. They paid off a $10,000 Cabela’s Hunting and Fishing credit card, bought Victoria’s Secret items, shopped at Nordstrom, bought La Mundial dressage boots, and other tack items for Gina’s horse show habit.
CCERR received just over $200,000 in restricted grants for use in a therapeutic equestrian program during that two-year period. The charity’s Form 990 shows it spent 64% of the restricted grant money for boarding and care of their horses. The leftover grant money didn’t fund a therapeutic riding program, according to the suit. That’s because neither charity ever operated a therapeutic equestrian program for wounded military veterans.
“Veterans and their families sacrifice immensely for our country. There is no place for sham charities that claim to support our veterans when in reality they’re lining their own pockets,” said Attorney General Becerra.
Wounded Warriors Support Group (WWSG) allegedly solicited donations using false statements suggesting it is a PATH International Certified Therapeutic Riding Center or a PATH Center Member.
Gina Danielle Gregory advertises she is a PATH International Certified Instructor for Therapeutic Riding. Brittany Holdman the Member Services Representative for PATH International tells us she is a certified Instructor Member.
Walter Garcia the press secretary for Attorney General Becerra confirms Gina Danielle Gregory is an attorney. She became licensed (bar number 297007) in 2014, according to the State Bar of California.
We contacted Gina Gregory for comment but did not receive a response prior to publishing.
Protecting your donations
Bogus charities often take names similar to legitimate charities, according to moneygeek.com.
Notice the Gregory family’s charity, Wounded Warriors Support Group sounds similar to two charities doing great work — Wounded Warrior Project and Wounded Warriors Family Support. This may cause confusion for some when a plea for donations comes in. So, before you give do your research.
Some charities, including horse rescues, use paid fundraising companies who take a large percentage of donations in a commission fee. Ask the tough questions about how much of each dollar is actually going to the cause you believe in.
And if they don’t know, walk away.