Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried announced the arrest of the president and director of Stories of Babies Born Still (SOBBS), a charity under investigation for allegedly defrauding donors.
Lore Mari Esteve, 53, is accused of misleading donors and misappropriating funds donated for the purchase and delivery of Comfort Cradle Devices to hospitals.
Comfort Cradle Devices serve as a temporary holding system for stillborn infants, allowing families to cope and grieve the loss of their child.
“The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has zero-tolerance for sham charities perpetrating fraud against its donors. Stealing the money of parents grieving the loss of a child is a vile and appalling act,” Fried said in a statement. “After a thorough investigation by our OALE investigators, we will be taking legal action and holding this charity accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
The FDACS Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement launched an investigation into Esteve in March 2019 after a complaint was received and referred to law enforcement by the FDACS Regulatory Investigative Section.
The investigation revealed the charity received funding, while numerous orders went unfilled. Also, the manufacturer of the cradle had not received payment for roughly half the orders.
Esteve faces multiple felonies, including one count each of Scheme to Defraud and Failure to Properly Apply Charitable Funds.
FDACS, Florida’s state consumer protection agency, is responsible for regulating charities and handling consumer complaints.
If consumers have concerns about charities or other consumer issues, they can file a complaint and find answers online or by phone at 1-800-HELP-FLA or 1-800-FL-AYUDA en Español.