Fla. AG Sues Web Site Operator Involving Reported Hurricane Donations Scam

September 6, 2005

Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist has filed a civil lawsuit against Nassau County resident Robert E. Moneyhan and obtained an injunction prohibiting him from fraudulently soliciting relief donations intended for Hurricane Katrina victims. Moneyhan, 51, also known as “Demon Moon,” allegedly created several Katrina-related Web sites, none of which was a legitimate charitable operation.

“While difficult times bring out the best in most people, unfortunately they also bring out the worst in a few,” said Crist. “The devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina has elicited an agonizing plea for help, and thankfully countless Americans are responding from the bottom of their hearts. The thought that someone would seek to pervert relief efforts when assistance is so desperately needed is truly appalling.”

As Hurricane Katrina was gathering strength in the Gulf of Mexico after passing through southern Florida, Moneyhan reportedly registered domain names for Web sites.

He created katrinahelp.com, katrinadonations.com, katrinarelief.com and katrinarelieffund.com, as well as possible others that are yet unknown. As of Aug. 31, the donations solicited from Web sites katrinahelp.com and katrinadonations.com were reportedly to be directed to Moneyhan’s private Paypal account. Moneyhan reportedly did not file registration documents with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to solicit donations, as required by law.

Moneyhan also reportedly misrepresented that “100% of all donations used for relief.” Due to customary transaction fees charged by Paypal, this guarantee is not possible to honor, resulting in violations of advertising laws. Investigators with the Attorney General’s Office determined that none of the Web sites represents a legitimate charity and no funds donated to Moneyhan’s sites would reach Hurricane Katrina victims.

Moneyhan has reportedly changed the Web sites so they no longer solicit contributions, but now appear to offer the Web site names for sale to the highest bidder. Through quick actions taken by the Attorney General’s Office and Paypal, Moneyhan was prevented from capitalizing on his scheme. The injunction will prevent Moneyhan from any further Web site modifications that would unlawfully solicit donations for his personal benefit.

The lawsuit was filed in Nassau County Circuit Court under Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. Moneyhan faces penalties of $10,000 per violation.

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