Mon, Dec

Animal Rescue Masks CA Tax-Fraud Scheme –Are Scams a Growing Trend?


ANIMAL WATCH-A winsome Pit Bull, named Bailey, is stretched out on a blanket on the Facebook profile page for Oliver Rescue Mission, with a cookie-cutter description designed to grab your heart. Bailey is a “female/spayed Pure-bred Pit Bull who was adopted from the Bakersfield high-kill animal shelter in 2010..."  

She is "a sweetheart and will lick you to death. Her eyes are magical, and you will fall in love." Bailey, we are told, gets along with other dogs that "aren't aggressive." Or, does she? An afterthought adds, "It might be better if Bailey is the only dog for that matter.” 

Before you begin to worry about Bailey’s fate or reach for your checkbook, there's a bizarre twist to this story. Bailey is not just another pretty face with a sad story to bring in donations. Brandy is the mask for fraud, according to 17Fox News.


According to the investigative report obtained from The Franchise Tax Board, 17Fox (KGET) reported on October 30, 2018, that "Oliver Rescue Mission" is a non-existent organization. And, between 2010 and 2013 NO dogs were reported rescued or rehomed. 

Founder Diana Roman and her mother registered the nonprofit dog rescue, Oliver Rescue Mission, in 2009, according to public records. The Secretary of State's site lists the agent for service of process as Maria Roman at a Bakersfield address. (Bakersfield is a city in Kern County, located about 150 miles NW of Los Angeles, with a population of 380,000.) 

Diana Roman is a Bakersfield acupuncturist, who is now accused of creating a fake nonprofit to get a tax break on hundreds of thousands of dollars. "Investigators say Roman, 43, used an animal rescue as a front for fraud," KGET-17 News reports.     

Roman is accused of claiming she donated nearly $700,000 to her dog-rescue organization between 2010 and 2013. However, State tax investigators told KGET that Roman spent the money on her mother's personal expenses and that she also failed to report $1.5 million she made as an acupuncturist. 

She is out on bail and is scheduled to appear in court in December, the report states. (Read the entire story here.)  


Guidestar shows, “Oliver Rescue Mission, Inc.” in Bakersfield, CA, at a P.O. Box address, with the mission statement, “To provide housing, food, health care, and security needs for stray and abandoned animal.” Oddly, the Cause Area is (NTEE Code) Temporary Shelter For the Homeless (L41)--which is "Lodging" for humans

Google search brings up "Oliver Rescue Mission" and "Oliver Homeless Mission" (in Columbia, S.C.) simultaneously. Is it possible that Diana and Maria Roman hoped to benefit from the exemplary reputation of the "Oliver Homeless Mission," a historical(human) rescue mission which has existed since 1888?  Or is this just a coincidence? 

Guidestar posted this caveat: "This organization's exempt status was automatically revoked by the IRS for failure to file a Form 990, 990-EZ, 990-N, or 990-PF for 3 consecutive years. Further investigation and due diligence are warranted." 

Yet, Oliver Rescue Mission's Facebook page, which has no recent posts, still has "likes" and "followers"---perhaps based more on desperation and hope that life can be better for homeless animals than a close examination of the reality of the organization. 


According to an August 23, 2018, article by San Antonio News Express, a canine-training operation was indicted for swindling about $1.26 million from the GI Bill program by fraudulently claiming his trainers were certified and by using a dead man's identity in the scheme. 

Agents with the FBI, and the IRS’ Criminal Investigation division raided Universal K9 in San Antonio, TX, which is billed as a nonprofit, on Aug. 8. Universal K9 began in 2010 as a for-profit business. The business has been shut down, according to the report. 

Twenty-six dogs that were on the premises were taken into custody by Animal Care Services. The dogs were said to be in acceptable but not optimal condition and living in makeshift kennels with window air conditioners. 

“Universal K9 specifically outreaches to veterans and offers a two-week K9 Handlers course or a ten-week trainer’s course in which any veteran may utilize his or her GI Bill to cover 100% of course costs, including the canine,” a Universal K9 lawsuit said. 

"Universal K9 is listed as a nonprofit foundation that donates dogs to police departments nationwide and has been featured on local and national media, including CBS News," reporter Guillermo Contreras writes. 

 Its 2016 federal tax Form 990 shows contributions of about $170,000 from two sources —Animal Farm Foundation of New York and the Veterans Commission of Austin — but assets of just $27,075. 

Animal Farm Foundation website--which contains no information on its Board of Directors or Officers--states it grants funds to Sector K9 for the training of former shelter “pit bull” dogs as police dogs, detecting drugs and guns. 

Councilman Manny Pelaez, who represents the district where Universal K9 is located, questioned whether some of the dogs were appropriate for use in training.  

“A lot of these dogs are not the kind of dogs that you would expect to be part of a security training organization,” Pelaez added. “Some of them, because of their age and their condition, just were not appropriate for this situation and for this operation. I’m very happy we can step up and provide the dogs some shelter," he told reporters. 

The indictment said that among the names Bradley Croft, 46, submitted to the Texas Veterans Commission as certified training instructors, one had been dead for two years. 

Croft has been charged with eight counts of wire fraud, four counts of aggravated identity theft and two counts of money laundering. 

Stacey Coleman, executive director of the Animal Farm Foundation, said it previously had a detection dog training program through Universal K9. The Animal Farm Foundation--which promotes Pit Bulls--would take dogs from shelters and cover the cost of training the dogs to do detection work for police. Universal K9 provided the training and placement with police departments, she said. 

Petco Foundation, which is based in San Antonio, confirmed through spokesperson Lisa Lane that it also provided grant funding to Universal K9 but did not know about the investigation. 


'Rescuers' Buying Puppy-Mill Dogs for Resale -- Federal Investigation Urged"  


A Colorado rescue organization admitted buying puppies at puppy-mill auctions, and financially supporting the industry they claim to abhor and want to eliminate, according to a CBS4 investigation by Brian Maas on November 13, 2017.  

Although its website has a section labelled “The Do’s and Don’ts of getting a dog," which warns against buying from puppy mills," Douglas County Canine Rescue, acknowledged it travelled to Missouri and purchased 24 dogs, half of which were puppies, at a puppy-mill auction.  

Rebecca Waldrop, co-founder, claimed, "We wanted to make a difference in the lives of those 24 dogs.”  Waldrop said after veterinary bills and other costs, the group only covered its expenses and did not make a profit. However, one commenter claimed that the French Bulldog puppies were sold for twice the $2,000 paid for each of them.  

Kathleen Summers with the Humane Society of the United States told CBS that rescue groups should not be patronizing puppy mills. “As long as we are pumping money into this industry they are helping keep it afloat,” she said.  

“They may not agree with how we went and that’s fine,” Waldrop retorted, “But, everyone can agree we are saving animals.” While some may not morally and ethically agree with rescues patronizing puppy mills, Douglas County Canine Rescue hasn’t ruled out a return trip to a puppy mill auction in the future, CBS reported.  

Juliet Piccone, an attorney who represents Douglas County Canine Rescue. “I don’t think a lot of people understand… a lot of other rescues do this, too.”  

CBS-4 confirmed another local rescue group, Waggin’ Tails based in Parker, CA, has purchased puppies from puppy mill auctions, which they then adopted out, but they declined an interview.) 

'Puppy Mill' Breeders Become 'Rescues'- Are Pet Shop Bans a Political Hoax?  

Jun 11, 2018 - "Puppy-mill" bans are increasingly being exposed as unable to stop the commerce of mill-bred animals in cities/states where they have been passed. 

An April 18, 2018, Washington Post article, "Dog rescuers, flush with donations, buy animals from the breeders they scorn," sent shock waves through the animal rescue and sheltering world. It also prompted a call by the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) for federal investigation and regulation.  

Kim Kavin, author of "The Dog Merchants: Inside the Big Business of Breeders, Pet Stores, and Rescuers,” explains how more than a decade ago animal rescuers began buying discarded dogs for as little as $5 or $10 each from the commercial breeders they disparage as "puppy mills."  

That practice has now grown into what she calls "a nationwide shadow market," fueled by the rescuers' ability to raise enormous funding over the Internet, and the practice no longer applies to over-bred, injured or sick dogs, but extends to pregnant purebreds and litters of puppies. She writes that unending streams of Internet crowdfunding donations to "save" these dogs now allow some "rescuers" to pay breeders $5,000, or more, for a single dog.  

"The rescuers call many breeders heartless operators of inhumane 'puppy mills' and work to ban the sale of their dogs in brick-and-mortar pet stores. The breeders call 'retail rescuers' hypocritical dilettantes who hide behind nonprofit status while doing business as unregulated, online pet stores," Kavin writes, adding that some breeders say an increasing number of puppies are being bred for sale to rescuers.  


Hopefully, your first option for adopting a pet will be your local shelter or humane society. Many of the dogs have come directly from homes, are accustomed to family life and will be eternally grateful to be with you. Ask the shelter for an honest disclosure of whatever information they have on the background and also, the behavior of the animal while at the shelter. Also ask for their "best guess" of the breed for future licensing and insurance purposes. (Identifying dog breeds by sight is an imperfect science but experience helps a lot.) 

Responsible animal rescuers are truly concerned about the welfare of animals and have additional safeguards in place for adoptions; such as, comprehensive adoption applications, home checks, follow-up and initial training to help new adopters, and a "return" clause, which requires (or requests) that the animal be returned if it cannot stay in its adoptive home. And, of course, all rescued dogs/cats/bunnies must be spayed or neutered before adoption.  

Their fees should be reasonable and designed to cover expenses, not make a huge profit. (Remember that an adoption "fee" is NOT a tax-deductible donation. If a rescuer advises you differently, be sure to check with the IRS information line or your tax preparer.) 

Do not trust that merely because a rescuer is associated with a shelter he/she is licensed, permitted or supervised by the agency or the city/county. (For instance, Los Angeles Animal Services lists over 230, New Hope Program – Rescue Partners which can "pull" unlimited animals, but only one administrative staff employee coordinating the program.) 

Rescuers in most states are not registered at the state level nor is there any monitoring of their activities or laws that govern their profit from or care of the animals (other than local, state animal cruelty laws.) If you believe a rescuer is not acting responsibly in any way, notify the shelter and/or the local District Attorney's office. If the animals at a rescuer's location are in poor condition or the animal you adopt is sick, contact your local animal control or relevant law-enforcement agency. (Imported dogs/cats may be carrying serious diseases, including rabies.) 

Do not take cash to a remote location to pick up an adopted animal, and always ask for detailed information on its background. The person who asks you to do otherwise or cannot/will not answer your questions may not be a "rescuer" but may have stolen the pet or have other reasons not to show you where the animal is being kept or where it was obtained. 


Donors should verify the legitimacy of the organization as well as confirm how the money is being spent, says Madeline Bernstein, spcaLA President, as she commended the LA County District Attorney's issuance of a FRAUD ALERT.  

In the Animal Shelter Scam, crooks post pictures of animals with false information about “high kill” shelters and imminent death unless they immediately receive money to rescue the pet or detail a medical condition that requires expensive treatment. The animals pictured may not even be from this area or exist. In addition, the fraud will claim to be a charity when they are not. 

These rip-off artists are stealing money from well-meaning people to the detriment of legitimate organizations,” said Madeline Bernstein, spcaLA President. “If you see a suffering dog or cat on social media, you may be moved to donate $5 or $10 to help. When 100 people think the same thing, you can see how quickly the money adds up, making the scam lucrative. 

"The best way to avoid an online scam is donate locally, so you can see your donor dollars at work,” Bernstein states. 


Scammers Can Tug at an Animal Lover’s Heart and Wallet 

The image of a sad puppy in a cage at a shelter will inspire many animal lovers to donate money to rescue organizations but scammers may be preying on their compassion. 

In the animal shelter scam, crooks will post pictures of the animals with false information about “high kill” shelters and imminent death unless they immediately receive money to rescue the pets.

Consumers may be contacted on social media, email, phone or U.S. mail seeking donations to rescue an animal.  In one common scam, fraudsters post old pictures of animals or that are not in our region or local shelters and indicate they are legitimate charities when they are not.  

The money raised by scammers doesn’t go to the care of the animal, sheltering agencies or to the adopting party or organization.  


  • Verify that the organization or individual soliciting funds is a legitimate 501(C)3 charitable group
  • Double check that the animal exists, where it is housed and the true extent of its needs
  • Ask the sheltering agency what help already has been provided to the animal and whether it really is at risk of being put to sleep 

(Deputy District Attorney Jessie McGrath from the Consumer Protection Division explains the scam in this video: http://vimeo.com/219930077.   

Report fraud to the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs at (800) 593-8222 or http://dcba.lacounty.gov.)