The state Attorney General has frozen the assets of a Brick-based charity for police officers and their families, saying the organization spent $200,000 in donations on Disney trips, restaurant meals and personal expenses for board members.
A lawsuit filed against the National Police Relief Association and its executives is seeking to have the charity dissolved and the misspent money returned to donors.
The state alleges that the improper payments amounted to more than double the money used for any charitable purpose and 15 times what was given to law enforcement officers injured or killed in the line of duty or their families — one of the charity's stated objectives.
“New Jersey’s police officers put their lives on the line for us,” Acting Attorney General Andrew Bruck said in a prepared statement. “It’s disgusting that people would raise money for fallen and injured law enforcement officers only to misuse it on themselves."
The charity's vice president, Frank John, declined comment Friday morning, saying he would have the charity's attorney contact the Asbury Park Press.
The call from the group's attorney was not immediately received.
John's wife, Antoinette John, the secretary of the charity, did not return a message left on her voicemail.
The state Attorney General's Office and the Division of Consumer Affairs alleges:
Some $208,000 in misused charitable funds was spent by the charity from 2014 to 2020.
The Johns paid themselves about $185,000 in direct payments "with no apperent connection to work performed for the charity" and failed to disclose it as income.
The association spent nearly $25,000 on restaurants, automobile expenses and travel for board members, the Johns and Davis that had "no discernable link to its charitable purposes."
Among the money misappropriated for travel was $7,000 for a week at Disney World for board members and their adult family members.
The National Police Relief Association reported nearly $2.5 million in contributions for 2014 through 2019 with $1.8 million paid to professional fundraisers.
Less than $14,000 was sent to the families of officers who had been killed in the line of duty from 2014 to 2020.
Some of the money was redirected to charities with other purposes.
Frank John and the late president of the organization, Michael Davis, whose estate is named in the lawsuit, were once employees of the state Department of Corrections, according to the Attorney General's Office.
According to public records, the Johns filed for protection under Chapter 13 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in February 2013. The bankruptcy was discharged in 2018.
The complaint seeks to return the money unlawfully obtained. The state also wants the courts to dissolve the charity, shut down its website and permanently bar the Johns from registering or operating any charity in New Jersey.
“We will continue to hold accountable those who ignore our laws and use charitable funds as their personal piggy bank,” said Sean Neafsey, acting director of the Division of Consumer Affairs.
The state has obtained a court order temporarily stopping the defendants from soliciting more contributions, disposing of assets in a charity account or destroying financial records.
Ken Serrano covers crime, breaking news, investigations and local issues. Reach him at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: NJ says charity for fallen cops misspent $208K on Disney, expenses