Friday, August 13, 2010

Children don't mean a thing, if you aint' got that bling

For the past four months, I've been researching a tip I received on current 2nd District Congressional candidate, State Rep. Cedric Richmond.  I was told that Rep. Richmond took a chapter out of the Mose/Bill Jefferson playbook and set up at least one 501c3 (non-profit), then bilked the organization's cash flow for personal use.  That's not a flippant allegation, and I was admittedly reticent to even look into the matter for fear of how much time I would have to put into finding the truth.  I, of course, proceeded against my better judgment.

Four months later, I think what I've found is significant and worthy of being aired out...particularly because the last thing I want to see happen is Jefferson v 2.0 march off to Washington, D.C. and pick up where bilk-master Bill left off.

After researching the allegations, I am convinced Cedric Richmond is bad news.  Here's my case.

The non-profit in question, New Orleans Community Enhancement, Inc. (NOCE), hit the stage in March of 2000.  While its mission statement varied from year to year, from what I can tell the entity was created to provide computer access and tutorials to under-privileged children in New Orleans neighborhoods.  Here is the most detailed mission statement I could find, which came from a grant application (click to expand):

Ok, I guess that's a noble effort.

The organization had very few employees, in fact only one full time employee who served as the Executive Director.  I have read 3 audits of the organization, by CPA, Desiree' W. Honore, and I can't understand how they were accomplishing their mission statement.  NOCE went defunct in 2004, for reasons which I will spell out shortly, but of all the expense reports I've read I could only find one where any computers were actually purchased, and that report only showed that three computers were obtained.

The physical address which housed NOCE was 5437 Crowder Blvd. in N.O. East.  Here is the building:

NOCE got off to what seemed to be a good start in terms of financial support.  Their funding sources seemed to be running at around 200k a year in their short 4 year tenure.  The sources of that funding were a handful of entities:  The Governor's Office of Urban Affairs and Development, the Department of Education, the City of New Orleans, Jazz Enterprises, Entergy, and the most interesting source came from Louisiana Stadium Exposition District (the Superdome) who funded NOCE through money they received from the New Orleans Area Tourism and Economic Development Fund.  Here is a revenue statement which shows the funders and the amount they provided in 2002:

So here's where it gets interesting.  At some point, in what I believe was 2002/2003, the director of NOCE obtained a credit card for the organization.  She then proceeded to use that credit card for personal use.  She also wrote payroll checks to herself which exceeded her allotted salary....and forgot to pay payroll taxes.  Plus there were never any minutes taken during the board meetings nor were there any real measures of the entity's success.  In fact it seems the board rarely even met.

It seems the CPA began to discover something was up in the 2003 audit.

And then by 2004, they had confirmed that there was obviously theft which took place on the part of the NOCE director:


Notice they turned the findings over to the district attorney, subsequently the NOCE director was arrested and charged with theft.  I am withholding the name of the director because she is not a public figure, as opposed to Rep. Richmond, and I have no desire to make her life more difficult.

But the result of her legal woes, were quite fascinating:

Docket Full                                                            

The audit found at least 30k which had been embezzled from NOCE, yet somehow the NOCE Director plea bargained her way into a misdemeanor charge of theft for less than $100 and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $15,000.  I don't know if this is common practice, but that seems like the sweetheart deal of the century to me.  Also, her record was eventually expunged in March of this year...I'm not sure that's even legal, but I'll refrain from expounding on that until I get more information.

Ok, so I assume you're asking yourself what does this have to do with Cedric Richmond.  Well, it just so happens that Mr. Richmond was the man behind the money which funded the non-profit.  In fact he is the Louisiana legislator who applied and recommended multiple grants for NOCE from the Louisiana Stadium Exposition District:

Notice the address Richmond uses in this official legislative letter....look familiar?  Yeah it should, 5437 Crowder Blvd....the same address which houses NOCE.  In fact, the grant requests that were submitted by NOCE required a legislator from the NOCE area to provide a letter of support:

That's a pretty sweet deal..."I approve this grant and by the way, send the check to my address".

Richmond even had a phone attached to that address:

It seems the Louisiana Stadium Exposition District has been very accommodating to Rep. Richmond's grant fact I've heard he's made over 40 of them.  I wonder if they are aware of the track record of his chosen grant recipients...I wonder if they care.

Now the story gets juicier and I want to be very careful about how I word this.  The first question is what the nature of Richmond's relationship was with the NOCE director.  I have been told it was more than casual, and I'm confident that was the case.  This, of course, leads one to question whether or not Richmond was a beneficiary of the NOCE credit card expenditures, or bank account.

Well, interestingly enough, I have been told by two separate sources that Cedric Richmond used non-profit funds to purchase a diamond bezel from a prestigious downtown jeweler for his blingiddy-bling, white gold, Rolex watch he is sporting that bad boy:

How certain of this am I?  I'm certain enough to print the allegation and await his response.  I have contacted his campaign for an interview but I have not yet received a response. 

You know, if this is true, this is a new low.  When Ellenese Brooks-Simms got busted for the software package she pushed into the NOPS for Mose Jefferson, she claimed she needed the money because her husband was sick.  I have some sympathy for that.  Yes she was exploiting children for her own gain, but she was also doing her best to help an ill family member.

Using children as a means to acquire cash from public entities so you can get your bling on....that's beyond shitty....that's McShitty shitty...that's Filet o' Fish McShitty.  That's fake theater popcorn butter shitty.  That's Airline Highway motel shitty.  You get my point?  Not only is it abhorrent, it's in extremely poor taste.

I went out to take pictures of the 5437 Crowder address today.  The property houses a real estate company which is listed as the owner of the property, Grateful Realty:

I am not sure if Richmond has any financial interests in Grateful Realty.  However, there was a sign in the front yard for another entity housed there, New Orleans Computer Access Project.

My spidey sense started tingling because that sounds eerily familiar to the mission statement of New Orleans Community Enhancement, Inc.  So I did an SOS search on it and lo and behold, whose name should come up:

Hey whadda you's Ike Spears...with the exact same idea Cedric had for NOCE.  It looks to be defunct as well, but I'm wondering if NOCAP was a "grateful" recipient of some of those Louisiana Stadium Exposition District dollars back in the day.  What's really interesting is that both NOCE and NOCAP had nearly identical mission statements under the same roof....that must have been convenient in terms of sharing those three computers.  If NOCAP bought three more computers we'd be up to six.  I wonder where NOCAP was getting their grant money from and if the donors realized there was another non-profit soliciting grant funds for the exact same thing.  Jeez, with all these charitable entities working towards "bridging the digital divide" in the first half of the decade, I'm betting the city must have some pretty savvy computer wiz-kids running around by now.

I wonder how many 501c3's were housed in this property on Crowder.  I wonder how many of them were paying rent to the landlord and at what amount.  I wonder if the landlord makes campaign contributions.  We know they're "grateful", I wonder if they're generous as well. 
Folks, bottom line is that this is just one 501c3 Richmond has been involved with and I uncovered some nasty dealings right out of the gate.  If you want to send this guy to Washington and let him run amok, that's your decision, but at least now you know what you're getting.  I'm not advocating Cao or Lafonta, I'm just letting you know what Richmond is all about.

I was also told that immediately after the director's sentence was reduced to petty theft, she celebrated by buying a 70k Lexus SUV.  That's a curious thing to do for someone who just lost their 47k a year job and was nearly charged with a felony + jail time.  After having to pay out 15k in restitution, you have to wonder where you get that kind of cash to purchase such a sweet ride.

Things that make you go hmmmm......


Anonymous said...

I hope you're not trying to bury this on a Friday afternoon.

Keep digging, there is much more to behold. Ike and Tina didn't just have one hit.

Jason Brad Berry said...

I'm not in the business of burying, I'm into the art of resurrection. Therefore I don't adhere to news cycles, I follow serpentine cycles as a good snake god should.

You are very clever, that gave me a good laugh.

Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah. Keep digging. Look for more Nagin administration connections on this one, too.

I'm happy to see this body start to float. I'm looking forward to understanding what the fuck was going on.

All these people really do seem to like hurting kids.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad this is coming out, but I did idly wonder if the tip came from someone supporting an opposing candidate.

The story is good, and no doubt there will be more of it, but how did the tipster know it was there to be told?

A former Nagin person with some ties to Juan LaFonta may have helped to write these grants.

He certainly knew all about these computers for kids enterprises, at one point bragging about them.

His little group of pals is tied to "Mr. Computer" Greg Meffert (who set up Cao's website, though I doubt Meffert and Cao are tight).

More to come, more to amazing would it be to have all three men in the same race touched by this story to one degree or another?

I suspect that might be an aspect of the story that may or may not come out.

Jason Brad Berry said...

I don't doubt for one second this info came in frm political motivations. I don't care where it came from, I just care if it is true or false. I'm making sausage, let's see
what it tastes like.

Anonymous said...

This story has been floating around in the women's gossip political network circles for a while. More like did you hear what Cedric did this poor woman. It is a character issue. And here we are again with a weak field of candidates.

Anonymous said...

landrieu and richmond are much closer than nagin and richmond ever were...

whitmergate said...

Another brilliant resolute post with purpose.

I, like you have no dog in this race. It is the ignoble campaign by Richmond that is abominable and well deserving of your critique.

Kudos again,


Anonymous said...

Anonymous are you insinuating that there has been a history of violence with Mr. Richmond like there was for Derrick Sheppard when he beat up his ex-girlfriend.

"This story has been floating around in the women's gossip political network circles for a while. More like did you hear what Cedric did this poor woman. It is a character issue. And here we are again with a weak field of candidates."

Anonymous said...

You should be ashamed for publishing such speculative and poorly supported allegations. You and this blog lose credibility for doing so.

I typically enjoy reading this site, but as I read this post, I kept asking myself, where's the meat? Where is the connection, besides "people tell me"? I was so blown away that I couldn't help but post this.

You've got a legislator that signs off on grants (that require a legislative recommendation) for a non-profit in his district ($13k of a $200k a year budget), and two years later the director gets busted for stealing from the non-profit.

Your big "ah ha" moment is that Richmond's legislative office was in the same strip mall (but different suite) as the non-profit. Then you say Richmond used money from the non-profit to pay for a watch bezel and insinuate that he bought the director a car. The only support for these allegations is that "people have told me."

This little fairy tale reminds me of some wanna-be investigative reporter that wrote the story before doing his homework. Nice try Lee Zurik, but you are doing yourself and public a disservice for posting this garbage.

Jason Brad Berry said...

Yeah you see I'm just serving the appetizers, I'll let "real" journalists like Zurik serve the Porterhouse.

C'mon that's all you got? You can do better than that. And nexf time send the test comment before you send the actual turfing wait an hour or two so it's not so easy for me to match the IP's. Sloppy work brah, you gotta step your game up.

Come on man, I got more coming so you better man up.

Anonymous said...

When you break the beginnings of these stories, someone always comes on to taunt you.

This was what happened when you started telling the John Georges stories during the election campaign.

I wonder if the "is that all you got?" guy is the same one every time.

It always sounds like the same guy. The BP trolls saying "you got nothin'" sounded just the same.

Anonymous said...

Reading the original proposal material again made me sad.

So everyone who got money for this, but then did not actually provide the kids with services, knows that there is a digital divide, and that poor kids are missing out in ways that are hard to fathom in such a prosperous country.

Everyone involved knows that these kids need safe and fun places to hang out, and positive adults who teach them, encourage them, and care for them.

Knowing all this, they ripped these kids off.

It isn't even as if they can plead ignorance of the needs these children have. And the money was there and allocated to meet the needs of the kids.

In their own heads, how can they justify acquiring only three computers, not running these promised programs, becoming another reason for these kids to feel let down and disillusioned?

There is nothing sadder than a sad kid.

The generation of kids let down by the failure of this non-profit --and heck, let down by the across the board failure of the politicians who were elected to serve them-- really got it in the neck, didn't they?

And after the childhood they are having, they will be burdened with the crippling national debt, no public services to speak of, hollowed out protections for any kind of civil liberty, corporate control of everything, and the long term effects of this oil situation.

It is sad. If Richmond is involved in this as it seems he is, Hell is too good for him.

Put the needs of the kids first, people.

Party with your friends and buy yourself stuff once the babies have what they need covered.

Why is that so hard?

Sam said...

Keep swinging, my friend. The "is this all ya got" stuff is nothing you haven't heard before. The last comment by Anon about the kids, was precisely what was going through my head as I read your post. It's really beyond horrible when there truly is a need for what their mission statement said they'd provide.

As always, I'm proud of ya and I'll be following this as it unfolds, and it most assuredly will from the looks of things.

Anonymous said...

I met Cedric Richmond about 11 years ago at a public meeting for a proposed building project in Gretna. He was with Derrick Shepherd and introduced as his right hand man. I'd say he didn't fall far from the tree.

angry cajun said...

computers for poor black kids is the other great fundraising lie next to bringing back o.c. haley. (the o.c. haley scams are perpetrated by ultra-rich white people and federal funds).

divide the amount of money they received by the number of computers they supposedly had. then try to prove they ever actually had one computer or served one child.

then, if jim letten or the state attorney general doesn't get involved, we know how crooked they are too.

it is their jobs to enforce the laws that are supposed to protect our society from corruption, and in this case the greatly disadvantaged children of New Orleans East.

there will always be a plantation state so long as the white guys who are really in charge look away while the light-skinned bourgeios poverty-pimp the poorest and blackest kids.

how's that for calling race out? but come on, that dynamic has been in play for at least 300 years. can't we talk about that it not only exists, but in fact it is our entire governmental institutional framework of the relationship between the city, state, and federal governments and Louisiana's black citizens?

just sayin'.

whitmergate said...

Thank you 'angry cajun said'...your salient observations deserve a ditto.


Anonymous said...

JC said any that hurts a child would be better off with a stone tied around his neck and thrown into the deepest ocean than to face GOD.
Good luck to all who use kids to enhance their pocket book

Anonymous said...

wow, interesting stuff. i want to read more.

but one question - why protect the identify of the convicted non-profit director, especially since shes in the public record on this matter? after all, she stole money from a non-profit that received public tax payer monies. doesnt that put her in the public eye a bit, even if its a scarlet letter?

oyster said...

Great post. I look forward to the updates.

Richmond and Spears have long had cozy accomodations.

Anonymous said...

News flash to the not-quite-white enough:

(And you may be plenty white SKINNED, and you might be rich, but for social class reasons, still "not quite" one of us)

If somebody whiter or richer or more powerful than you claims to be your friend, but offers you any course of action that sees you hurting your child, or the children of your community, they are NOT your friend.

Listen to them, put their needs or priorities first, and you are selling both your child and your soul.

If it hurts the baby, it ain't the right thing to do.

If it hurts the babies, it ain't right.

Jason Brad Berry said...

It's not protecting her So much as i am protecting myself from legal action. She is a private figure, no public. Plus this blog focuses on public money and public officials, I'm not out to destroy this wmans life

Anonymous said...

...not suggesting anyone destroy lives, but facts is facts and names are names. if she is indeed in the public record (court papers) then her name is publishable by anyone.

totally your call of course, just curious since da facts are da facts.

Anonymous said...

This is just a shame!!! Jim might want to ask him for name, addresses and phone numbers for all the children that he has helped out also the sing in sheets for the classes and also the hard drives from thoes three conputers to see what kind of learning tools thy have.

I hope people like you never stop calling these POS out.

Keep it up

Anonymous said...

Wasn't this first investigated when Eddie Jordan was DA? Isn't that why is wasn't turned over or prosecuted any further? Connect the dots or the connections at that time period.

Isn't this the same scenario that Congressman Rangle is being investigated for at the present time? Providing funding for a non compliant, financially irresponsible non profit?

Anonymous said...

hahaha "Airline Highway motel shitty." Perfect.

Really compelling and important stuff. This certainly needs to be more publicized.

I love this city, but I find myself saying "wtf" far more often than I should.

Anonymous said...

I'll be at Congressman Richmond's victory party Saturday night.

Jason Brad Berry said...

Cool....don't get too close to him if you're a woman.

Anonymous said...

I just had another thought on this - just a reminder that Tracie Washington's non-profit is also in a Spears building, the one on Elysian Fields where Spears' own law firm is. And that was the site where the stolen emails from City Hall (Fielkow, Head, Midura, jeff Thomas) went. Now who had access to that? Tech folks running the shop for Nagin? Right. From Nagin to Spears.

Anonymous said...

This was all very interesting. Now Mr. Richmond is our representative. Should these allegations of misappropriated funds prove true we're going to wish you dug a little deeper before he was elected. So are you.