Police are investigating reports a Polegate horse sanctuary has become the victim of fraud after a fundraiser failed to hand over a number of donations.
Police say a man organised rides and group party visits to the Little Bramley Riding Sanctuary in Bay Tree Lane in exchange for donations.
While he was working with the sanctuary’s consent, it appears he has not passed on the majority of the money he received from donors.
PC Luke Brown said: “In the meantime, people have turned up to visit and the sanctuary has honoured their bookings, but they are only a small organisation and can ill afford to be taken advantage of as their limited funds are aimed at caring for horses with no other future.
“We are trying to assess the scale of this potential fraud and would ask anyone who may have dealt with this man (not the sanctuary directly), even if you have not paid money to him, to contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 101 quoting serial 556 of 19/03.”
A statement released on Little Bramley Riding Sanctuary website said: “The sanctuary is run by two ladies, Patricia Evans and Zoe McQuade. Due to a spate of ill health, lack of funds and lack of volunteers, Pat and Zoe reached crisis point a couple of months ago and were on the verge of giving up.
“However, following a posting to this effect on their Facebook page, they received a massive surge of support in both donation and volunteering.
“An individual known to these ladies set up a Groupon deal for riding lessons.
“Turmoil quickly developed when, having taken people’s money, this individual failed to turn up at the sanctuary to organise these rides.
“To save face, Pat and Zoe have been allowing the rides to go ahead.
“Pat and Zoe are going out of their minds with worry, not only because of all the extra strain this is putting on their resources, but it’s giving the sanctuary a bad name.
“We are devastated this has happened and that due to Pat and Zoe being so busy with the horses, this has happened ‘under the radar’.
“We would like to extend our deepest regret to anyone affected by this.”
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