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An activist from the Black Lives Matter movement, along with her husband, is accused of collecting about $33,426 in unemployment benefits and spending an unspecified amount of money received from donations for their own benefit.
An 18-count indictment has been filed against Monica Cannon-Grant, 41, and Clark Grant, 38, of Taunton, Massachusetts. The couple founded the non-profit organization Violence in Boston. They are charged with wire fraud, conspiracy, and making false statements to a mortgage lending company, the U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement.
Additionally, Cannon-Grant is accused of mail fraud. Cannon-Grant has denied the allegations.
An indictment alleges that the couple used the funds for their own consumption, including hotel accommodations, vehicle rentals, auto repairs, dinners at restaurants, manicures and travel.
According to the allegations, Cannon-Grant also paid herself $2,700 weekly and treated herself to a $450,000 five-bedroom house in Taunton, Massachusetts, last year.
The majority of the $1 million raised by her nonprofit Violence in Boston is alleged to have been allocated to worthy causes. She was paid $25,000 in 2020, but $170,000 in 2021.
The Boston Globe once named Cannon-Grant a Bostonian of the Year, and last week, she was arrested in her large house. Cannon-Grant appeared in federal court along with her husband on Monday.
As a condition of her release, Judge Judith Dein stipulated that Ms. Cannon-Grant could continue to work for Violence in Boston, but could not become involved in its financial operations.
Grant is also a founding director of the organization founded by Cannon-Grant in 2017. Grant is the organization’s founder and CEO.
Here is Monica Cannon-Grant leaving the Moakley federal courthouse. She did not want to make a comment, and left in a black SUV. Her lead defense attorney Robert Goldstein says he is very disappointed by her arrest and they’ve been cooperating fully with investigators. pic.twitter.com/GYjaThkgKV
— Jonathan Hall (@JHall7news) March 15, 2022
Violence In Boston’s purpose is to ‘reduce violence, raise social awareness and aid community causes in Boston,’ as stated on its website.
As Black Lives Matter (BLM) gained significant national attention in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd, the organization garnered significant attention.
In recent months, however, the BLM foundation has also faced intense scrutiny over financial transparency, with leaders admitting that they have not been transparent about the movement’s finances and governance.
Black Lives Matter Global Network executive director Patrisse Cullors stepped down last year amid scrutiny of her $3.2 million property empire.
However, now the foundation is more forthcoming about such matters. There is a requirement that the fiscal sponsor, which is currently managing BLM funds, appoints a board made up of representatives from BLM chapters to approve expenditures.
A surge of donations followed Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis, and the foundation blossomed from a small, scrappy movement into an institutionalized institution. Other organizations also experienced growth, including Cannon-Grant’s Violence in Boston.
According to reports, they misappropriated grants intended for their charity, including a $6,000 grant granted by the Suffolk District Attorney’s office in June 2019 for a retreat for young men who could fall into crime.
They instead spent their money on meals at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and Shake Shack, and a three-night Maryland trip that included a $1,200 hotel stay, reports say.
Several trips to a Boston nail salon, rentals of cars, groceries, and Walmart trips are also said to have been made by Cannon-Grant with the cash.
This $6,000 retreat was intended ‘to give these young men exposure to communities outside of the violence-riddled neighborhoods that they navigate daily’ and give them exposure to activities focused on community-building and coping techniques,’ her grant request reads.
It is alleged that a couple spent $3000 of a $10,000 donation on paying their rent arrears in 2017, according to the lawsuit.
Fraudulent applications for 100,000 federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits, which Cannon-Grant and her husband knew they were not eligible for because they had other income sources at the time, is also alleged, prosecutors say.
Prosecutors contend they also lied to a mortgage lender by claiming Violence in Boston’s assets were theirs in order to cover mortgage fees and closing costs.
Attorneys for the state said that the couple held exclusive control over the organization’s finances, and did not tell other directors, bookkeepers, or financial auditors that funds had been used for their own use.
The couple was arrested at their $450,000 Taunton home on Tuesday. The alleged scammers have not revealed if funds received by the non-profit organization went towards buying the five-bedroom house purchased in 2021.
Prosecutors have charged both defendants with wire fraud, conspiracy, and making false statements to a mortgage loan company in an 18-count indictment.
In addition, Cannon-Grant has been charged with mail fraud. According to her, she has previously reported that she has not been receiving a salary to the IRS and the state attorney general. On the other hand, prosecutors said Cannon-Grant started paying herself $2,788 per week in October 2020.
A food pantry is run by the organization twice a week. The lawyer for Canon-Grant said before her arrival in court that he expected her to be cleared.
‘We are extremely disappointed the government rushed to judgment here,’ the lawyer stated in an email. ‘VIB and Monica have been fully cooperating and their production of records remains ongoing. Drawing conclusions from an incomplete factual record does not represent the fair and fully informed process a citizen deserves from its government, especially someone like Monica who has worked tirelessly on behalf of her community.’