A federal grand jury has indicted Monica Cannon-Grant, founder of Violence in Boston on charges that include sucking money out of the non-profit, defrauding the state pandemic unemployment system and lying to a mortgage lender, the US Attorney's office reports.
Monica Cannon-Grant, 41, and her husband Clark Grant, 38, both of Taunton, were charged in an 18-count indictment with two counts of wire fraud conspiracy; one count of conspiracy; 13 counts of wire fraud; and one count of making false statements to a mortgage lending business. The indictment also charges Cannon-Grant with one count of mail fraud.
Clark Grant had been charged last October on a smaller number of charges of unemployment and mortgage fraud.
Cannon-Grant was arrested this morning, according to the US Attorney's office, which e-mailed copies of the indictment to reporters against her and her husband before the case had been formally unsealed by a judge in US District Court in Boston.
Cannon-Grant started Violence in Boston in 2017 and since raised a total of $1 million in contributions from individuals and grants from institutions and the government to combat violence and aid community causes - for example, through a food pantry at its headquarters on River Street in Hyde Park, which it obtained with the help of the Walsh administration.
The feds charge that Cannon-Grant and Grant told people they were doing the work for free when, in fact, she withdrew "a substantial amount" of money from the charity's Bank of America and PayPal accounts for their personal life - and that they tried to conceal those withdrawals from the group's bookkeeper and auditors - and from state and federal agencies.
[I]t is alleged that Cannon-Grant and Grant used grant and donation money to pay for personal expenses including, among other things, hotel reservations; groceries; gas; car rentals; auto repairs; Uber rides; restaurants; food deliveries; nail salons; and personal travel. The defendants did not disclose to other VIB directors or VIB’s bookkeepers or financial auditors that they had used VIB funds for such payments.
The indictment says this started from the beginning of the group: When a local department store agreed to donate $10,400 in 2017 to buy food for needy BPS schoolchildren, Cannon-Grant allegedly told it to issue the check to a supposed church in Virginia, which then made out a check to "Monica Cannon/Violence
in Boston" and sent it to her. She deposited it in her personal bank account, which at the time was empty, then, when it cleared, withdrew $3,111 in money orders to pay her own personal back rent on a Boston apartment, the indictment alleges. Meanwhile, she never noted the department store's donation in Violence in Boston's books, allegedly.
Two years later, the indictment continues, an unnamed Massachusetts District Attorney gave the group a $6,000 to pay for ten "at risk" young men and two youth workers to attend a violence-reduction workshop in Philadelphia. In fact:
July 2019 VIB Bank Account records showed that CANNON-GRANT and CLARK GRANT used the $6,000 MDAO check to pay for, among other things, $145 at a Boston nail salon; over $400 in grocery and Walmart purchases in Columbia, MD; hundreds of dollars in meal costs in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Maryland, including at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Shake Shack, and other restaurants; $1,211 in charges at the Sonesta Suites, Columbia, MD; hundreds of dollars in fuel, parking, and car rental costs; and hundreds of dollars in ATM withdrawals. By July 31, 2019, the VIB Bank Account had a negative balance of -$552.38.
Missing from the records: Any indication anybody had actually gone to Philadelphia for a workshop.
Also, the US Attorney's office says:
The defendants also allegedly conspired to defraud the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) by collecting Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits while at the same time collecting income from a variety of sources, including VIB funds utilized for Cannon-Grant and Grant’s personal expenses, consulting fees paid to Cannon-Grant, compensation paid directly by VIB to Cannon-Grant, and the annual salary paid to Grant by his employer for his full-time job. According to the indictment, beginning in or about May 2020 through 2021, Grant and Cannon-Grant fraudulently applied for PUA benefits, created by Congress in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, that they knew they were not eligible to receive. The defendants allegedly coordinated the submission of false online applications and certifications for PUA funds, concealed their income, used the fraudulently obtained PUA funds to pay for their joint household expenses and other personal expenditures, and created and submitted phony documentation in order to continue receiving weekly PUA COVID-19 benefits.
Grant has previously been charged with obtaining pandemic unemployment insurance even as he was working fulltime for commuter-rail operator Keolis.
The indictment also alleges the couple used Violence in Boston revenue to obtain a mortgage on a home in Taunton. Grant had earlier been charged with doing this after he was initially rejected for the mortgage because he only had $1,000 in his own bank account at the time.
Complete indictment (16.9M PDF).