Ridgefield sanctuary owner alleges housekeeper stole $200,000
When Moreton Binn’s secretary hired a woman from Danbury to take on housekeeping duties for his animal sanctuary a few years ago, he never expected she would allegedly rob him of $200,000 over three years and lead him to hire a forensic accounting team to get a full scope of the financial damage.
“She had moxie,” said Binn, owner of Binn Animal Rescue and Sanctuary in Ridgefield.
Amparo Sandoval, 54, was charged with one count of larceny in the first degree, a felony, on July 10 for allegedly stealing $60,000 from the sanctuary through fraudulent credit card charges, according to her arrest affidavit from Ridgefield police.
But Binn said the amount she took from the organization was far more than initially reported in the affidavit. He said that a forensic accounting firm reviewed all of the accounts Sandoval had access to, and discovered she took over $200,000.
Jennifer DeCastro Tunnard, Sandoval’s Danbury-based attorney, said she had no comment.
In a letter to the Binns’ attorney on Dec. 13 of last year, Tunnard said Sandoval had been “a loyal and trustworthy, salaried employee to the Binns for the past 10 years and 5 months,” and that she “vehemently denies” the allegations raised by the Binns.
In November 2018, Sandoval abruptly quit.
“One day she just got into a hysterical fit over some of the things she was being asked to do … and she said, ‘I quit,’” Binn said.
Later, the company managing the sanctuary’s payroll told him Sandoval had drawn a paycheck for the full month of November, despite having quit 11 days before the end of the month, according to the court documents.
That led Binn to begin a review of all of the accounts Sandoval had access to, and eventually press criminal charges against her.
Tunnard requested a list of “unauthorized purchases” from Binn, along with date, cost, and location of the items allegedly purchased. She also wanted to establish “actual period of employment” Sandoval worked in November of that year.
“If the amount received covered past November 20th, the last day of her employment, then she will be returning those funds immediately,” Tunnard said in her letter to the Binns.
Binn said he never received a check for the excess pay alleged in the letters.
Tailoring, gas, and dresses
Court documents and Binn’s account paint a web of fraudulent purchases Sandoval was able to carry out by ingraining herself in the sanctuary’s finances to avoid scrutiny.
Michael Maloney, Binn’s attorney, said they reviewed “all statements and other records evidencing substantial unauthorized purchases of fuel, building supplies, food, and other goods,” in a letter sent to Sandoval’s attorney on Dec. 21 of last year.
“It appears that many, if not all of these unauthorized purchases were concealed from the Binns by way of financial transactions routed through the accounts of Binn Animal Rescue & Sanctuary Charitable Foundation… as well as other accounts of the Binns,” the letter went on to say.
On one occasion, Binn said he went to pick up dry-cleaning for his wife and himself, and discovered Sandoval had dresses she bought off of Amazon using his credit card information altered there.
She also used his account to purchase around $400 to $500 of gas every month. Binn said he does not drive, but his wife owns a car.
“We have one car, why would we use $500 in gas?” he said.
He said Sandoval was able to add his credit card to her personal Amazon account because she had access to his personal information the retailer uses to verify the cardholder’s identity.
Other charges showed around $500 spent on groceries — an amount Binn said he and his wife could not have gone through.
“She’s got a lot of — excuse the expression — balls,” he added.
The accounting firm he hired to review his accounts told him his cost of living had been cut in half.
“I think we were supporting her whole family,” Binn said.
Binn said he started the Binn Animal Rescue and Sanctuary in 2010.
“The organization is a charitable foundation in the state of Connecticut,” he said.
The sanctuary cares for nearly 150 farm animals recovered from abusive living conditions, according to its website.
Binn said that after Sandoval was hired as a housekeeper, she gradually took on more and more responsibilities at the sanctuary. Eventually, she was placed in charge of hiring staff, as well as feeding some of the animals.
“She was in a very trusted position,” Binn said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t check out her references, because she’s probably done this before.”
The animal sanctuary is not suffering financially after the theft.
“Fortunately not, thank God,” Binn said. “We have the money to keep the sanctuary going … but it would have been if she hadn’t been caught.”
Sandoval is due to appear in Danbury Superior Court on Monday, Aug. 19.