Grace Foundation's legal battle continues

By: Penne Usher, Telegraph Correspondent
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The Grace Foundation of Northern California continues its financial fight with the banks they say put them in dire straits.

Grace, an equine rescue facility, has been temporarily closed since October as it wages a fight against Wells Fargo and Bank of America in the hopes of recouping more than $900,000 that has been spent on the care and feeding of 70 neglected horses rescued by the foundation last year from a ranch in Susanville.

The El Dorado Hills based non-profit has taken the fight to court, claiming they were deceived by Wells Fargo and Bank of America when the foundation was entrusted with the care of the horses.

The banks that foreclosed on the Whispering Pines Ranch in Susanville owned by Dwight Bennett were allegedly supposed to provide money to help care for the neglected animals, many who have since given birth.

Beth DeCaprio, founder of Grace Foundation, continues the legal battle.

Following a November court hearing in Lassen County, DeCaprio said the ranch was “blindsided to find out minutes before court, that Wells Fargo and Bank of America had been working on a deal with a Lassen County rancher to remove the horses from Grace and take the horses and their foals back to Lassen County.

“The banks presented this as their option to the courts because Grace had expressed concern over continuing to provide care for the horses if the banks would not help.”

The Foundation would like continue to care for the horses until an equitable resolution is reached, but feel that the banks, in their refusal to pay Grace for prior care and agreeing only to pay the unnamed Lassen County rancher, will have a “devastating result” for Grace.

A Lassen County Superior Court judge ruled last month to remove the horses from Grace and return them to Lassen County.

Banking officials deny the allegations, saying they are not obligated to help fund the care and feeding of the animals and are not the rightful owners of the horses.

“Ms. DeCaprio’s claims against Wells Fargo are completely without merit,” said Julie Campbell, assistant vice president of Corporate Communications for Northern and Central California Region’s Wells Fargo Bank in a previous interview with the Telegraph. “Wells Fargo has never owned the Whispering Pines property or the horses that formerly resided there, nor were we involved in the horses being transferred to the Grace Foundation.”

Bennett was arrested Oct. 25 and charged with 70 counts of animal cruelty and is currently awaiting trial. He denies all allegations. He is currently out of custody.

According to DeCaprio, the banks illegally gave the horses to race and therefore they do not have legal ownership of any of the horses.
Without legally owning the horses Grace cannot adopt them out and must burden the cost for their care.

DeCaprio said that moving the horses is not in their best interest and voiced concern as to why the banks would be willing to offer financial assistance to the Lassen County rancher and not Grace Foundation.

“We could not imagine that (the banks) had no intention of continued support,” she said in a video-taped statement. “This situation has brought us to our knees.”