Former project VetCare official arrested in Hanover

  • Danielle Goodwin.

Valley News
Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The former executive of a shuttered Hanover nonprofit that assisted military veterans was arrested Wednesday and charged with diverting organization funds, which she allegedly used to pay for the installation of a new heating system at her home on Kingsford Road.

Hanover police arrested Danielle Goodwin, the former executive director and co-founder of Project VetCare, at her home on Wednesday afternoon and filed felony charges against her for the “unauthorized control” of approximately $24,600 of the organization’s money. The 46-year-old Goodwin posted $15,000 in bail and was released on her own recognizance. She has been scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 16, according to a Hanover Police Department news release.

Hanover police Lt. Scott Rathburn said the department is continuing to investigate the diversion of the nonprofit’s funds and noted that “there’s always the possibility additional charges” could be filed in the case, but declined further comment.

Goodwin’s arrest comes in the wake of the release of a preliminary report by the Charitable Trusts Unit of the New Hampshire General Attorney’s Office that found Goodwin and other principals involved in the nonprofit appropriated donations for their own personal use, including “loans” and “stipends.”

The principals entered into settlements with the Attorney General’s Office to repay a portion of the money, but the matter also was referred to the Grafton County Attorney’s Office for possible criminal prosecution. Police confirmed on Friday they had opened a criminal investigation.

Contact information for Goodwin could not be obtained and there was no answer at her door when a reporter visited her Hanover home.

Project VetCare was founded in 2012 by Goodwin and Robert Chambers, the co-founder of the nonprofit Bonnie CLAC, which became More Than Wheels, a nonprofit that helps low-income people with poor credit buy dependable cars.

Chambers denies abusing Project VetCare’s funds and has lamented over the disbanding of the organization that he said helped more than 1,000 veterans during its four years of operation. He said he settled with the state’s Charitable Trust Office in order to avoid the legal expense of contesting the allegations.

Project VetCare was one of the largest recipients of funding from the Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation in 2014 and 2015, receiving a total of $880,000, about half of which was utilized to purchase a home on Lebanon Street in Hanover as a residence for veterans while they attended Dartmouth College as students. The organization later bought a second home in Lebanon.

According to the state’s investigation, Goodwin diverted about $24,600 of Project VetCare’s funds to have a heating system installed and oil and propane delivered to her Hanover Home. The report also said that Project VetCare directors informed Charitable Trust Unit investigators that Goodwin had used the organization’s funds to pay for a Florida vacation on Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.

Chambers, in an interview, said he became acquainted with Goodwin when she and her husband came to his Hanover real estate office looking for a home to purchase. Chambers said that Goodwin later joined the agency as his assistant, and together they decided to launch Project VerCare because they shared a mutual interest in assisting military veterans who were facing difficulties.

Chambers is a Vietnam War veteran and Goodwin said at Hanover Town Meeting in 2015 – when she was seeking funding from the town to aid Project VetCare – that her husband, Gavin Goodwin, had been severely wounded during his deployment in Afganistan. Gavin Goodwin was a former director of Project VetCare and received about $48,100 in Project VetCare funds as a “loan,” according to the Charitable Trusts Unit’s investigation.

Under terms of the settlement with the Charitable Trusts Unit, Gavin Goodwin has agreed to repay $30,000 of the loan, with about $16,700 repaid to date and the balance to be paid in monthly installments. Danielle Goodwin has agreed to repay $90,000, which is payable upon the sale of the Goodwin’s Kingsford Road home.

The home currently is listed on the market with an asking price of $899,000.

State Attorney General’s Office officials said that all the funds that will be generated by the liquidation of Project VetCare’s assets – principally proceeds from the sale of the two homes but also funds repaid by former principals – will be given to other Upper Valley organizations that aid veterans upon dissolution of the organization.