Monica Cannon-Grant Boston activist and husband charged with fraud, conspiracy as feds accuse couple of using $1m donated funds for personal uses.
How was she able to get away with it for so long? A well known activist for racial justice and the leader of BLM Boston has been accused of using her nonprofit’s coffers as her own according to federal prosecutors as the ‘Violence in Boston’ founder faces charges of defrauding people who thought they were contributing to a good cause — when they actually were funding her lavish lifestyle, including large weekly payments to herself, frequent restaurant meals, car payments and nail-salon appointments.
Monica Cannon-Grant and her husband Clark Grant — who already was criminally charged by feds in October, alleging he had engaged in pandemic-assistance fraud — ‘agreed to use VIB as a vehicle to personally enrich themselves and their designees,’ according to the federal indictment unsealed Tuesday.
U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins’ office announced the allegations after authorities arrested Cannon-Grant at her home on Tuesday, who then made a brief appearance in federal court downtown later that morning. She was released on her own recognizance on several conditions, including being prohibited from applying for financial grants as the case moves forward.
The couple along with Clark Grant’s previous October indictment, are now both charged with 18 counts, including wire fraud and making false statements to a mortgage lending business.
Prosecutors accuse the husband and wife of a years-long scam in which the pair used ‘a substantial amount’ of the money intended for their anti-violence and pro-services nonprofit to enrich themselves.
Funds used to fund huge increase in personal wealth and lavish lifestyle
The indictment charges them in connection with three separate schemes — defrauding donors, lying on a mortgage application and illegally collecting about $100,000 in pandemic unemployment benefits, according to the Boston Globe.
The couple according to the indictment raised over $1 million in grants and donations for people in need, only to take a significant amount of it for themselves, the Globe reported. The BLM leader is alleged to have used the funds to pay herself $2,700-a-week along with treated herself to a $440,000 five-bed house in Taunton, Massachusetts. Her salary jumped from $25,000 in 2020 to $170,000 in 2021.
Prosecutors allege that the pair cashed checks into their personal accounts of money that was meant for VIB. For instance, in 2019, the Suffolk District Attorney’s Office — then led by Rachael Rollins, now the top federal prosecutor in the office that’s bringing these charges — gave VIB one of its $10,000 grants that were required to be for anti-violence work.
In June 2019, Monica Cannon-Grant was given a check for $6,000 for a trip to Philly ‘to give these young men exposure to communities outside of the violence riddled neighborhoods that they navigate daily,’ according to the Boston Globe.
Instead, the couple used the money to take a vacation to Maryland, eat at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Shake Shack and other eateries, and pay for car rentals, Walmart purchases and visits to a nail salon, the feds allege.
According to the indictment, the $6000 was used ‘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 (hotel), Columbia, MD; hundreds of dollars in fuel, parking and car rental costs; and hundreds of dollars in ATM withdrawals.’ By July 31, just over a month later, ‘the VIB bank account had a negative balance of -$552.38.’
The feds also claim that Cannon-Grant took $3,000 that the organization Cambridge Black Lives Matter donated ‘to feed needy children’ only to redirect the funds to a family member.
Opinion | As you read the 38 pages of charges, it’s hard to know who is more unspeakably corrupt – the race-hustling Monica, or the Boston establishment and their media stooges who swallowed her shameless hate speech hook, line and sinker. https://t.co/MrWIzqEZ7d
— Boston Herald (@bostonherald) March 16, 2022
Using the cover of society, media and wide accolade as cover
The indictment has raised questions as to how the couple were able to get away with their scheme. That answer may lie in part to the fact that Cannon-Grant, now of Taunton, has been a public figure in Boston for years, making a wide range of headlines — and finding helping hands from the movers and shakers. Former Mayor Martin Walsh in 2019 helped set Violence in Boston up with a Hyde Park office, and the city also gave VIB cash grants according to the Boston Herald.
The organization does have some actual street cred, as it’s also provided real services, particularly around food distribution.
Cannon-Grant’s profile soared during the racial-justice protests of summer 2020, when she organized a massive rally in Franklin Park in which she yelled ‘(Expletive) the police.’ The donations poured in — as did glowing profiles, with The Boston Globe naming her a ‘Bostonian of the Year’ and Boston Magazine ‘2020 Best Social Justice Advocate.’
Cannon-Grant has proclaimed her innocence while declined to comment during a brief appearance outside the Boston federal courthouse on Tuesday.
An attorney for Cannon-Grant, Robert Goldstein, said in a statement that the charges are a ‘rush to judgment.’
‘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,’ Goldstein said in a statement.
Activists meanwhile are now concerned the couple’s arrest has greatly hampered future donations towards racial equity causes.
Cannon Grant is due back in the federal courthouse next week for arraignment.