ANN FIELDS LEAVES MONEY MISSING, 900 ANIMALS

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 1995:

ANDALUSIA, Alabama––Ann Fields, 49,
founder of one of the most lucrative no-kill shelter scams
ever, died at home in Palm Springs, California on October
21 of an apparent heart attack. Her second husband, Victor
Lagunas, apparently many years younger, reportedly buried
Fields in Mexico.
Circa 1983, Fields and her first husband, Jerry
Fields, whom she divorced in 1993, founded a small outdoor
no-kill shelter near Conyers, Georgia, initially called Love
and Care for God’s Stray Animals. Questionable animal care
and high-pressure fundraising appeals soon drew notice from
at least four major national and regional humane groups, but
each was apparently scared away from attempted intervention
by Fields’ ability to portray herself to donors and the public as
a beleaguered saint, saving animals no one else would help,
claiming she was the victim of a mean-spirited conspiracy.
She meanwhile evaded creditors by repeatedly changing the
wording of her Love and Care business name, and by routing
donations to a variety of mail drops. Finally obliged to relocate
from Georgia to Alabama by a 1989 zoning dispute,
Fields left behind an unpaid federal tax lien of $574,889,
plus state tax liens of at least $31,000.


Once set up in Alabama, Fields left the Love and
Care shelter to be run by first a succession of relatives, then
later by four immigrants identified by the Alabama Office of
the Attorney General as illegal aliens. Telling donors she was
working 18-hour days at the shelter, Fields actually visited it
just once after 1989, her son-in-law Ronald Denny said
ANIMAL PEOPLE editor Merritt Clifton, then
news editor of Animals’ Agenda, in 1990 began publishing
warnings about Fields’ failure to file legally required accountability
documents. Fields counterattacked in the Love and
Care newsletter, between issuing emergency appeals often
accompanied by handwritten notes to previous high donors,
seeking further gifts and loans she never repaid. Donors who
inquired about their money were told of natural disasters
befalling the shelter, which never occurred, and were sent
videos of a shelter in Palm Springs, California, with which
Fields had no involvement. They were also advised that Love
and Care was nearly broke, even after it received a $250,000
trust fund in settlement of an estate. Eventually some donors
and lenders cooperated with the Alabama Office of the
Attorney General in bringing a lawsuit against Fields for
fraud, deceit, and deceptive trade practices.
Aliases
Filed on June 26, 1995, the suit cited Fields’ use of
aliases including “Ann Lagunas,” “Marjorie Jacobs,” and
“Rebecca Garcia.” Her income from appeals on behalf of the
Love and Care shelter was estimated at $75,000 to $100,000
per month, of which little more reached the shelter than was
necessary to maintain care standards comparable to those of
rural Southern dog pounds. Not until 1994 were sufficient
funds provided to neuter all of the animals, then-shelter manager
Linda Lewis told ANIMAL PEOPLE. Lewis resigned
less than two weeks later.
As word of the fraud charges spread among donors,
Fields once again claimed she was the victim of a conspiracy––and
began soliciting funds under a new alias, “Irene
Hathaway,” purported president of “Care for Our Lord’s
Animals, Inc.,” a no-kill shelter supposed to have been in
Cathedral City, California, which according to Cathedral
City residents never existed. Her second of two rounds of
appeals issued within less than 30 days as “Irene Hathaway”
was apparently mailed only hours before her death.
“This office and the attorney generals’ offices in
Florida and California are continuing our investigation,”
Alabama Office of the Attorney General investigator Denny
Billingsley told ANIMAL PEOPLE on October 30, “and we
will continue until it has been completed.”
No will
Fields’ death, apparently without a will, left the
fate of the 900 animals at the Love and Care shelter uncertain.
The six-member Andalusia Area Humane Society, headed by
veterinarian Louis Jones, took over management of Love and
Care on an interim basis, while Fields’ daughter, Tina Fields
Denny, issued an October 27 memorial appeal on the humane
society’s behalf. A court order later forwarded donations still
being received at Fields’ California addresses to a special
account opened by the humane society. On November 7,
AAHS member Ginger Hassell told ANIMAL PEOPLE, the
county court named humane society member Alan Corey to
be receiver of the property, after Ronald Denny failed to
qualify for a $100,000 security bond. The disposition of as
many as 550 dogs and 350 cats would apparently be left to
Corey’s judgement, Hassell said, indicating that there was a
serious rift within the AAHS over whether to have most of
them euthanized or continue to care for them.
“It would be stretching it,” Hassell explained, “to
say even 100 might be adoptable. Most of them are old,
many are cage-crazy, all of the cats have been exposed to
feline leukemia, and they’ve been dying on us left and right.
I have a feeling,” she added, “that whatever comes of this is
not going to be a happy ending. Whatever anyone decides to

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