Volunteers of America Southwest, a major charity in San Diego dedicated to helping vulnerable people, is under criminal investigation by the Office of the Inspector General.
The investigation follows allegations that charity managers are engaged in mismanagement, misuse of public funds, conflicts of interest and potential fraud, Voice of San Diego was unveiled last year.
Following the allegations, VA officials promised a forensic audit of the charity. I submitted a request for the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the audit, but my request was partially denied. I have not received any legal audits – and officials have not confirmed whether they have ever done one. I appealed the decision.
“We should note that there is an active criminal review by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) on this matter and we have a concern when we publish any reports during the active case,” wrote Gregorio Kishketon, a former FOIA officer who has since transferred to a different department.
A spokesman for Volunteers of America confirmed the investigation.
“VOASW has worked with all parties to work diligently to resolve this,” Vicki Bendure, a spokeswoman for Volunteers of America, wrote in a text message.
In 2018, two employees of the Southwest America’s Volunteers of San Diego office noticed suspicious payments from the nonprofit to three different companies. It was discovered that the company was owned by two women who worked for the Volunteers of Southwest America, and was also the sister-in-law chief officer of the charity.
Companies bill a wide range of goods and services, from skin cleaners to sofas and gym weights. It’s not clear any of these goods or services have ever been provided – and some products sell for more than market rates.
The whistleblower Gerald McFadden, the nonprofit’s chief executive officer, said they were reiterating their concerns. But no one stopped the alleged double-deal – and eventually both whistleblowers lost their jobs.
Volunteers of America Southwest was previously one of the largest charities in San Diego that served marginalized populations. He has run several treatment centers for people with mental illness and addiction, as well as veterans and homeless people.
One of the largest centers, a 120-bed addiction treatment facility in National City, is now closed.
Following the revelation of potential fraud, The VA suspended $ 2 million in grant payments for Southwestern America Volunteers. McFadden, the charity’s president and CEO, was was forced to resign and his voluntary advice to the directors broke down.
Volunteers of America Southwest, a local branch of a national organization, was assumed by the national office of the Volunteers of America.
I asked a VA spokesperson if they had ever done a legal check, but he didn’t respond. The spokesman also did not answer questions about how much, if any, Volunteers of America Southwest still receives from the VA.
San Diego County officials also audited Southwest Volunteers. The auditors found that at least $ 274,000 went to companies controlled by the chief financial officer. But they noted that more than $ 1 million in non-profit spending was either not allowed or did not have proper documentation to back it up.
Officials have asked Volunteers of America Southwest to reimburse the county $ 6.5 million in nonprofit payments made between 2018 and 2020. The county no longer provides any funding for Volunteers of America Southwest.
South American Volunteers has already been a major provider of mental health beds for San Diego County.
Charity officials did not answer questions about the current breadth of operations and how much money they had lost after the alleged fraud was exposed.
McFadden, the former CEO, sued the charity. He is accused of being denied free lifetime health insurance as promised as part of his job.
I asked Bendure, the spokeswoman, to connect me with Barbara Banaszynki, the new CEO, a woman who was sent out of the corporate office to take control after last year’s landing. I wanted to ask Banaszynki about the state of the organization today and how it will serve the most vulnerable citizens in San Diego. Bendure did not make it available.
Volunteers of America Southwest Under Investigation by Office of Inspector General Source link Volunteers of America Southwest Under Investigation by Office of Inspector General