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:
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:
It seems the Louisiana Stadium Exposition District has been very accommodating to Rep. Richmond's grant requests....in 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 ....here 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 know...it'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......