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Red Cross, Humane Society Under Investigation

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He said they found "rogue warehouses" filled with Red Cross supplies that they believed were being sold. Also, some disaster staffers were ordering suspiciously large volumes of such supplies as cooking oil, coffee and canned food from Red Cross warehouses for areas in which they weren't needed. Large numbers of prepared meals were also being ordered and, in at least once instance, were delivered to local restaurants, Nickerson said. Red Cross volunteers were also using multiple debit cards loaded with thousands of dollars in Red Cross funds. "It was completely out of control," he said.

Nickerson said other Red Cross disaster volunteers and staffers interfered with their investigation, corrupting computer files and refusing to give them documents.

But in December, after Nickerson and his partner, Michael Wolters, a Wisconsin security guard, presented their findings to Red Cross officials in Louisiana, and told them they wanted to investigate further, they were sent home.

"It was very disappointing," Nickerson said.

In the case of the Humane Society, Wartelle said her office is in the initial phase of fact-finding regarding for what purpose the money was raised and whether it was used for the intended purpose. She declined to identify the charity, but Humane Society officials confirmed that it was their organization.

Humane Society officials said they are cooperating with Foti's inquiry, but they believe they have done nothing wrong.

"I can't for the life of me see any issue here," said Wayne Pacelle, chief executive of the Washington-based group, which raised $30 million from the public. Pacelle said that so far, the organization has spent or committed $25 million of that to rescue animals, rebuild destroyed shelters along the Gulf Coast and reunite Katrina evacuees with their pets.

Wartelle said her office has received complaints that even though the organization had raised millions of dollars, it had not done enough to reunite Katrina evacuees with their pets.

Pacelle said the group set up a reunion center and, with other groups, helped reunite about 2,300 pets with their owners. More than 10,000 animals were rescued from areas devastated by Katrina.


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