OCEANSIDE, Calif. (KGTV) - In a new civil suit, the founder of a North County Wild Mustang Horse Rescue is being accused of stealing from the nonprofit. Specifically, the legal complaint is for conversion, breach of fiduciary duty and negligence.
10News interviewed the nonprofit’s new president, who claims that the founder of Oceanside’s Equinox Horse Rescue took off with property and funds that donors have given to the charity. Meanwhile, the rescue itself is being sued separately over one particular Mustang.
“It was affecting our sleep habits. It was affecting our home life. Hell, it was affecting my marriage,” says Scott Rehn of San Diego. He’s the new president of Equinox Horse Rescue. Rehn is referring to the days after Equinox was suddenly turned upside down, when founder Sandrine Linglet stepped down.
“So, one day she just suddenly resigned?” we ask Rehn. “Yeah, just flat out walks away,” he answers. Rehn says she left with most everything the wild Mustangs needed to survive. After Linglet’s resignation, Rehn assumed presidency of Equinox, which is now suing her, accusing her, in part, of conversion by taking the charity’s property and donations for her own use.
Richard Deleissegues is Equinox's attorney. “She literally walked away with not only the financial records, but with all the registration papers for the horses,” he tells us. The lawsuit claims that items she kept for personal use include bank statements, tax records, horse titles, PayPal account information, website information, donated apparel, saddles, bridles, blankets and so on.
“She shut down the social media [accounts] immediately. She shut down the website. Those are all the main source of funds to pay for the vet visits, to pay for the hay, to pay for anything and everything these horses need,” adds Rehn.
Rehn says Linglet’s actions substantially interfered with the nonprofit's ability to conduct day-to-day operations.
Linglet declined to speak on the record with 10News, or provide a statement.
Deleissegues provided us with what he says is Linglet's resignation letter. It reads in part, "I can no longer handle the threats, insults, anger and intolerable behavior." It accuses Rehn's wife, a board member, of "creating a hostile environment that severely hindered the welfare of the rescue and [Linglet's] family". It goes on to read, "I will return donated items" and "anything belonging to Equinox" as well as "turnover the bank account".
Deleissegues showed us emails about arranging those returns. He showed us an email he says is from Linglet, which reads that she'd meet at the Oceanside Police Department at noon on November 19.
Deleissegues says she never showed. About 40 minutes after they were supposed to meet, he says he sent her email confirming she was not there, which he shared with us.
“Do you think she's hiding things?” we ask Rehn. “Yes. Whole heartedly,” he answers.
All the Mustangs were eventually placed in a safe facility, thanks to the generosity of another local horse rescue.
Court records show that Linglet filed a motion to dismiss the case, claiming that the matter should be addressed by the California Attorney General, which supervises charities. Deleissegues tells us he reached out to the Attorney General and got a response acknowledging that it does review all complaints but doesn't provide information about pending investigations and audits.
While Equinox is tied up in this court battle, another related legal fight is underway.
“I'm a veteran of the Navy…Dakota was my therapy horse,” says Anthony Rash of Oceanside. He and his wife, Pamela, are suing the nonprofit over this male Mustang, Dakota. “If he's with us, he'll be taken care of. If he's not with us, there's no telling [what] will happen to Dakota,” Anthony adds.
The Rashs say they donated Dakota to Equinox with the agreement that Dakota would only be used for a veterans therapy program. “If Dakota was not to be used as a therapy horse to treat the Wounded Warriors that were suffering from PTSD, he was to be returned to us. It was a very simple agreement,” he adds.
Yet after Linglet resigned, the Rashs claim that the nonprofit intentionally ignored the agreement and refused to return Dakota. “We don't know if he's still here in Oceanside or if he's been adopted out-of-state or is somewhere else,” says Anthony.
Rehn says Equinox denies any wrongdoing with the Rash lawsuit and adds that Dakota is safe and being well-cared for. Rehn says it's a separate matter from the real problem, which is Linglet. “[We want her to] just give us back what's rightfully the horses,” he adds.
Since 10News first interviewed Rehn in December, all but one of the Mustangs have been adopted out. The nonprofit plans to dissolve after it finds a home for the remaining horse.
Equinox has the following GoFundMe campaign: