Tallahassee, Fla. – Last week, investigators with the state’s Office of Agriculture Law Enforcement (OALE) obtained an arrest warrant for Lori Marie Esteve, President and Director of Stories of Babies Born Still (SOBBS), a charity under investigation regarding allegations of engaging in a scheme to defraud donors and misappropriation of funds. The accused, Lori Marie Estevez was arrested yesterday and booked into the Polk County Jail. Bond was set at $8,000.00. OALE is a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS).
“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,” stated Commissioner Fried. “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.”
Investigation: On March 29, 2019, the FDACS Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement (OALE), opened an investigation into a Solicitor of Contributions: Stories of Babies Born Still, FDACS license CH40585. This case was opened in response to a referral from the FDACS Regulatory Investigative Section (RIS). The referral was a result of complaints received by RIS concerning the SOBBS Charity.
SOBBS is alleged to have misled donors and misappropriated funds that were donated to the charity for the purchase and delivery of a Comfort Cradle Device(s) to a hospital or clinic of their choosing. The named charity collected donations via their website for the acquisition of Comfort Cradle Devices from the manufacturer, Comfort Innovations LLC, a Florida for profit corporation. These devices were to be used as a temporary holding system for still born infants to allow the family to cope and grieve during the tragic event. The investigation revealed that deposits and full payments had been given to the SOBBS charity, however, numerous orders had not been fulfilled. The manufacturer of the cradle, Comfort Innovations LLC, had not received payment for approximately half of the orders placed for the devices.
Results: Acting on the information obtained during the investigation, OALE Investigators submitted a Probable Cause Affidavit to the Circuit Court of Polk County and obtained an arrest warrant for the suspect: Lori Marie Esteve. The investigation revealed the charity’s President and Director, Lori Marie Esteve, engaged in a scheme to defraud donors, misappropriated funds solicited and donated to the charity, and failed to comply with Florida State Statutes and regulations concerning charities registered and licensed by the State of Florida.
Florida State Statute 817.034.4(a)2, Scheme to Defraud for 1 (one) count, 2nd Degree Felony
Florida State Statute 496.415.1, Engage in the Solicitation of Charitable Contributions Without Registration for 1 (one) count, 3rd Degree Felony
Florida State Statute 496.415(13), Violation of Disclosure Requirements and Duties of Charitable Organizations for 1 (one) count, 3rd Degree Felony
Florida State Statute 496.415(16), Failure to Properly Apply Charitable Funds for 1 (one) count, 3rd Degree Felony.
Lori Marie Esteve
(W/F) (DOB: 09/21/1966)
535 Hancock Street W, Lakeland, FL 33805
About FDACS & Consumer Protection: FDACS is Florida’s state consumer protection agency, responsible for regulating charities and handling consumer complaints. FDACS handles more than 400,000 consumer complaints and inquiries, oversees more than 500,000 regulated devices, entities, and products like gas pumps and grocery scales, performs over 61,000 lab analyses on products like gasoline and brake fluid, performs nearly 9,000 fair ride inspections, and returned over $2.8 million to consumers through mediations with businesses. If consumers have concerns or questions about charities or consumer issues, they can file a complaint or find answers at FloridaConsumerHelp.com or by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA or 1-800-FL-AYUDA en Español.