Future of 300 Horses Uncertain as Sanctuary Faces Eviction

An animal sanctuary in Riverside County could soon be facing eviction after the founder says they were swindled out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by a con man.

The Villa Chardonnay Animal Sanctuary has to come up with more than $1 million by December, or it could be closed down.

"He's a con artist you will believe everything he tells you," Monika Kerber said.

Kerber is talking about 69-year-old Ronald Allen, a man she claims embezzled more than $400,000 from the sanctuary in southern Hemet, that's home to more than 300 animals. Most of the animals are horses from all over the nation.

"When they're sick, when they're blind... they come here and stay until they pass away," she said.

Kerber said about a year ago a friend introduced her to Allen.

She says Allen told her he was an investor who worked with NBA stars and he wanted to help her buy the 31 acres of land that the sanctuary has been leasing for the past three years.

After meeting with him several times, even employees believed Allen was trustworthy.

"He was like a grandpa. He was like a father figure, he was your friend," said Villa Chardonnay's director of social media Mercedes Flores. "He would call us four times a day, every single day. He was always available for us."

Kerber says she trusted Allen enough to let him handle the property transaction. But in June when escrow was supposed to close, she says the money was gone.

"Cash and credit. It was actually $400,000," she said.

Now the sanctuary must come up with the full selling price of nearly $1.4 million by December, or they -- along with all the animals -- will be evicted.

"All the upgrades, and everything we have done for the babies will be lost," she said.

Allen was recently arrested and is facing criminal charges including grand theft and embezzlement.

NBCLA reached out to him at his Temecula home, but he declined to comment or even give us the name of his attorney.

Villa Chardonnay is now reaching out to other foundations for financial help.

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