FLORIDA -- A local animal rescue group has made news around the country for going into the Everglades and rescuing dogs.
Donating money to them is as easy as a few clicks online. But whether that money is actually helping the animals is the focus of a state investigation.
Brian Entin: “Amy?”
Once she saw us, Amy Roman beelined back inside this animal hospital.
Brian Entin: “I wanted to ask you a question about the new investigation.”
She’s the president of 100+ Abandoned Dogs of Everglades Florida (aka 100 Plus Animal Rescue Inc). They have more than 203,000 likes on Facebook.
According to state investigators, the rescue has claimed “every cent goes towards rescuing these animals.” But this administrative complaint, issued last month questions where the money was spent.
Brian Entin: “Can we get your side of the story?”
Carol Daniello: “Can you get out of my face, please?”
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer services says there appears to be more than $98,000 from the rescue’s bank account used for “personal expenses.”
Tiffany Nesbit, board member: “It is one-sided. The rest of the story has not come out yet.”
The state found 960 debit transactions, including $34,050.99 on food and restaurant expenses; purchases at Best Buy, Bed Bath & Beyond and Bath and Body Works; $10,097.74 to pay off a personal credit card; $6,876.83 for car payments and $4,705.40 on insurance premiums.
Transactions included: TJ Maxx, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Best Buy, CVS, Dick's Sporting Goods, Cactus Car Wash and even a vacation to Key West.
Brian Entin: “Ma’am, what do you say to the people who have donated?”
Tiffany Nesbit: “I say that we have saved over 3,600 dogs — 306 dogs last year with money that is donated.”
But the state says there was also a $30,000 loan from the rescue to buy a BMW registered to its president.
According to the investigation, she paid back $20,000 of it.
Amy Roman: “We have cooperated with the department 100 percent, and we are confident that the hearing officer will agree with us.”
Brian Entin: “The investigation says almost $100,000 used for personal expenses.”
Amy Roman: “That’s a lie. You heard my statement, you heard my … that’s a lie.”
The state began investigating after several complaints came in, some anonymous.
"It's all personal," Roman said. "These are ex-husband, ex-tenant, disgruntled ex-volunteer."
In 2012, 7News first reported a warning letter to the rescue, from the state, for collecting donations without registering first.
They later complied.
As for the current allegations, the rescue’s attorney says they “are not based in reality or fact.” He says “the monies in question were not used for personal expenses…” but for purchases for the animals and that “any car loans were approved by the board…”
He says the group “…will be cleared of any wrongdoing.”
The rescue is fighting the state’s findings. They’re compiling evidence of their own and have requested a formal hearing. We’ll let you know how this dog fight plays out.