‘I don’t know why they targeted us’: Animal welfare nonprofit hit with nearly $60,000 in check fraud

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — Planned PEThood, a non-profit that helps provide low-cost spay, neutering, vaccines, and wellness care for dogs and cats, was the recent target of a $59,000 check fraud scheme.

“I don’t know why they targeted us, but I think it’s pretty low for someone to target a non-profit. It was undoubtedly a crime of opportunity, in that they happened to run across this check and we happened to get a large deposit that day.” said Elizabeth Burgner, Planned PEThood co-founder.

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Burgner told Channel 2′s Tom Regan he believes someone stole a check that was sent through the mail to pay rent for their organization. That same check was then used to fabricate fraudulent checks that were signed with fake signatures and made out to individuals and then cashed.

The ten fraudulent checks ranged from $4,000 to $13,000.

“According to the police department, they have people who do this. There are fraud rings out there that create the checks and pay people a portion of the proceeds to cash them,” said Burgner.

The organization’s bank agreed to cover the cost of the funds stolen from the account. But the crime has been an administrative nightmare.


“We have to close this bank which is linked to so many accounts, PayPal, eBay, Square, all of our point of sales transactions, and on the outgoing side, all of our vendors so it will take hours to unlink everything,” said Burgner.

The organization does many community outreach events where they offer low-cost or free vaccination and pet food. They say the massive fraud has thrown a wrench into their operations.

“It just feels like a gut punch. We are doing so much good work and feel good about what we do when we help the animals and people who need it. And then, to have combat criminals on top. We have had catalytic converters stolen from our vans in the past, so we have dealt with criminal activity in the past, and now we are having to deal with it in a different way today.” said Planned PEThood Community Outreach Director Lauren Frost.

The organization is working with police to determine where the initial check was stolen in the mail and identify those behind the check fraud.

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