Touched by Angels Founder Sentenced to Four to Five Years in State Prison for Stealing Thousands in Donations
Cape Cod Woman Found Guilty of Stealing Funds Raised To Benefit Families Who Had Lost Loved Ones or Were Dealing with Serious Medical Conditions
BARNSTABLE – The founder of a Cape Cod charity that was organized to provide financial assistance for families who had lost loved ones or were dealing with serious medical situations was sentenced to state prison for stealing tens of thousands of dollars for herself, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today. In total, the defendant and her organization were found guilty on 52 counts last week, including fair labor violations and for operating an illegal lottery scheme.
Following a 17-day trial, a Barnstable Superior Court jury found Gina Clark, age 42, of Marstons Mills, guilty on charges of Larceny by Embezzlement over $250 (15 counts), Gross Fraud, Illegal Lottery Scheme, Minimum Wage Violations (8 counts), Overtime Law Violations, Failure to Provide Proper Paystub, and Independent Contractor Violations.
Separately, Clark’s charitable organization and corporation, Touched By Angels (TBA), was found guilty on the same labor violations plus 11 counts of Larceny by Embezzlement over $250, and Gross Fraud.
Barnstable Superior Court Judge Robert C. Rufo sentenced Clark to four to five years in state prison and 10 years of probation to be served concurrently. Clark was also ordered to pay former employees about $3,700 in restitution and is prohibited from having any contact with victims and is banned from engaging in any fundraising activities.
Judge Rufo ordered TBA to pay more than $14,000 in fines. A restitution hearing has been scheduled for 9 a.m. on June 21 in Barnstable Superior Court.
Several victims delivered impact statements in court today regarding the effect that TBA had on their lives after recovering from traumatic circumstances.
“This defendant victimized vulnerable families who sought her help after going through truly traumatic circumstances,” AG Coakley said. “We’re thankful that she has been taken off the streets and her organization has been shut down.”
From October 2007 through August 2010, Clark operated Touched By Angels, a non-profit charity and corporation that raised funds to help local families in financial need due to a tragedy or illness. Clark promised to raise funds on behalf of deserving families, selected by TBA usually for a one month period each. The financial stresses that the sponsored families were dealing with arose either from the recent death of a family member (a parent or a child), or from costs associated from serious medical conditions. Clark promised to pay out a percentage of the proceeds TBA raised to help the sponsored families with necessary medical and funeral costs and other living expenses.
Investigators from both the AG’s Criminal Bureau and Fair Labor Division began an investigation after being contacted by two former employees who alleged that Clark was not giving the designated amount of proceeds to these families. Investigators discovered that TBA would solicit funds for these families by: setting up tables in front of local businesses; holding fundraisers; selling merchandise; or offering numerous prizes through auctions and raffles. Clark and the families would then agree on what percentage of the proceeds would go to the family or the organization after a particular fundraising campaign was completed.
Although TBA used a variety of fundraising techniques that resulted in thousands of dollars in donations from local businesses and members of the public, the investigation revealed that families only received a small portion of the proceeds raised on their behalf. In some cases families received as little as $50 to $200. Investigators discovered that Clark defrauded over a dozen families out of tens of thousands of dollars, claiming that under TBA’s agreements with the families, they would only be entitled to receive proceeds from checks or online donations that specifically referenced the particular family – all other donations would become the property of TBA.
Further investigation revealed that Clark’s fundraising techniques also included operating and promoting an illegal lottery scheme, in which she and TBA staff solicited local businesses to donate items, such as merchandise, gift cards, and gift certificates. Clark and TBA staff informed these business owners that the items would be raffled off and the proceeds used to help the sponsored families. However, none of the proceeds raised through these unauthorized raffles went to help any of the sponsored families.
Authorities also learned that Clark and TBA committed numerous wage and hour violations by misclassifying employees as independent contractors. Clark classified and paid all of TBA’s workers as if they were independent contractors, even though they operated under TBA’s direction and control, the services they performed for the organization were within the usual course of TBA’s business, and the workers were not engaged in any similar independently established businesses. Many of these workers were not paid wages for all of the hours they worked, and in some cases Clark did not pay them the required overtime.
A Barnstable County Grand Jury returned indictments against both Clark and her organization on March 25, 2011. They were arraigned on May 5, 2011. Clark and her organization were found guilty last week by a Barnstable Superior Court jury.
In August 2010, the Attorney General’s Not for Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division notified Clark and TBA that the organization’s certificate to solicit funds would not be renewed and that it must cease all solicitation activities because of multiple complaints regarding the misuse use of funds and solicitation methods.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Steve Adams, with the Criminal Bureau and by Assistant Attorney General Karla Zarbo, with the Fair Labor Division, with assistance Assistant Attorney General Drew Cahill, also with the Fair Labor Division. The investigation was conducted by Fair Labor Inspectors Paul Gordon, Celina Pendexter, Mario Paiva and Chief of Investigations Amy Goyer, and Criminal Bureau Investigator Jack D’Isidoro, and along with assistance from Victim Witness Advocates Nikki Antonucci and Amber Foley, Patricia Tapper, and state troopers assigned to the Attorney General’s office. Caitlin Bresnahan, of the AG’s Insurance and Unemployment Fraud Division also assisted. Barnstable Police Detective and the Massachusetts Insurance Fraud Bureau also provided support. The Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Office provided invaluable assistance.