A Bronxville woman claims that a White Plains religious charity tricked her into donating three houses and other property so as not to suffer “grave and fatal spiritual consequences.”
Maria J. D’Onofrio sued Mother of God With Eternal Life charity and its president, Pasqualina Fontana, for $1 million on Feb. 22 in Westchester Supreme Court.
Mother of God, according to the complaint, describes its purpose as providing “spiritual guidance and a safe haven where individuals can discuss their problems and feelings, take responsibility for their lives, grow spiritually and to enable individuals to change their lives.”
Fontana declined to discuss the lawsuit, stating that she does not understand English well and wanted to speak to a lawyer.
The complaint states that Fontana made deceptive statements from 2007 through 2017 to induce D’Onofrio to transfer properties and money to her.
D’Onofrio transferred a house in Elmont, Long Island, to Mother of God in December 2011, the same year that the charity was formed as a tax-exempt religious organization.
A month later, she transferred another house in Elmont and two undeveloped lots in Inverness, Florida.
In 2014, she signed over a house at 33 Midland Ave. in White Plains.
No money exchanged hands in the transactions, the lawsuit states.
The transfers were not “free and voluntary acts,” the complaint states, and were procured by “fraud, duress and undue influence” by Fontana.
Mother of God raised more than $1.5 million in contributions from 2011 to 2015, according to its tax returns.
Fontana reported no personal income from the charity, on the latest tax return. She reported net assets of $1,059,329, mostly in land and buildings.
The tax return describes the mission as providing, in part, “a prayer meeting service for miracle healing to individuals in need.”
Mother of God’s website has a section about “The House” that appears to be the Midland Avenue property.
“From the moment I went in the house, I knew there was something wrong. The house would have noises at night and I would see shadows passing by me as well felt like I was being watched. I couldn’t eat in the house; it was as if my food was poisoned.”
She said she prayed to God to release spirits from the house.
“The only way to resolve this torment of spirits is to call Lina, who has the gift of God and firsthand experience with this type of situation,” she said. “Once you do this the house will be free and you can live in peace and tranquility.”
D’Onofrio said in her lawsuit that she has been left in severe financial distress.
She is demanding $1 million and the return of her former properties.