Founder accused of operating illegal charity, failing to account for donor contributions
OLYMPIA — A Forks resident who raised $300,000 for a non-profit dog rescue organization, but failed to register with the Secretary of State or produce required records of how the donations were spent, has been sued by the Attorney General’s Office for violating Washington’s Charitable Solicitations Act and Consumer Protection Act.
Stephen C. Markwell, founder of Olympic Animal Sanctuary, is accused of unlawfully soliciting and collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in charitable donations while not being registered as a charity with the Secretary of State.
According to the Attorney General’s complaint, filed today in Clallam County Superior Court, Markwell also failed to maintain records of how the charitable donations were spent.
“Olympic Animal Sanctuary failed to account for how charitable money was spent,” said Attorney General Bob Ferguson. “When organizations don’t comply with the law, we step in to protect both the public and the vast majority of our state’s charities that do comply with the law.”
Markwell registered Olympic Animal Sanctuary as a federal, tax-exempt non-profit organization in 2007. However, his operation was not registered in Washington as required by law, until April 2013, when he was contacted by the Secretary of State.
During the six-year interim, his organization reported more than $300,000 in revenue generated from public donations.
As of Dec. 2013, Markwell no longer operates the Olympic Animal Sanctuary and has surrendered the dogs to a shelter in Arizona.
The Attorney General’s action does not address allegations of animal abuse or neglect as those issues do not fall within the Consumer Protection Act or Charitable Solicitation Act.
Concerns regarding animal welfare should be directed to city or county law enforcement and local animal care and control agencies. Consumers with concerns specifically about Olympic Animal Sanctuary and Stephen Markwell can contact Clallam County Animal Control at (360) 417-2459, or the Forks Police Department at (360) 374-2223.
For more information on finding charities, visit the SOS charity lookup http://www.sos.wa.gov/charities/search.aspx . Consumers can also visit the SOS website for tips on giving wisely http://www.sos.wa.gov/charities/givewisely.aspx.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Attorney General Bob Ferguson is working hard to protect consumers and seniors against fraud, keep our communities safe, protect our environment and stand up for our veterans. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Alison Dempsey-Hall, Acting Communications Director
Maureen Scharber, Communications Consultant