A major social justice activist in Boston and her spouse used their nonprofit organization to steal at least $185,000 from several donors. One of them was a Black Lives Matter civision as well as the local district attorney’s office.
Federal documents state that Monica Cannon-Grant and Clark Grant used the Violence In Boston nonprofit as their piggy bank to pay for mortgages, rent, food delivery, shopping sprees, and even a Maryland vacation.
The nonprofit was set up in 2017, which was the same year she was in national headlines for organizing the Fight Supremacy protest march in Boston after the Unite The Right rally that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia.
In 2019, Cannon-Grant bragged about having the cellphone number of the Boston mayor at the time, Marty Walsh, who is now the US Secretary of Labor. She also said she could call the current Boston mayor Michelle Wu whenever she wanted.
In 2020, Cannon-Grant was named the Best Social Justice Advocate by the Boston Globe and Boston Magazine.
First Fraud Victim Was BLM Chapter in Cambridge, MA
The first victim of the alleged fraud was the BLM chapter in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This is according to the 18-count federal indictment that was unsealed against the pair in federal court this week.
Federal documents state that the BLM chapter gave $3000 by Paypal to support the Violence In Bost program to provide for hungry children in the summer of 2017. But the money was sent to a bank account that belongs to a family member of Cannon-Grant.
In June 2019, she was part of a ceremony at a Boston district attorney’s office. Her nonprofit organization was given $6,000 to transport 10 at-risk young men from a bad neighborhood in Boston to a Violence Prevention Retreat in nearby Philadelphia.
But Cannon-Grant and her husband spent the money on a vacation to Columbia, Maryland. The spending spree included $1200 on a fancy hotel named Sonesta Suites. Hundreds also were spent on a rental car, gas, meals, and parking close to the Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant.
During this period, the DA in Suffolk County was Rachael Rollins. Last year, she was named the US Attorney for the state of Massachusetts. It was her office that brought the federal charges against the couple.
Fundraising Fraud Accelerated in 2020
The federal fraud allegedly sped up in 2020 when their organization used donations as much as $50,000 per month for personal activities and expenses. Some of the money was taken out of ATMs and put into bank accounts on E-trade and Robinhood.
Cannon-Grant and Grant also have been accused of stealing at least $100,000 in unemployment benefits intended for pandemic victims.
During this period, Cannon-Grant also took $27,000 for consulting when she helped a company with ‘diversity, inclusion, and equity’ training. She gave herself a $2700 salary each week from the Violence In Boston organization. She also had a full-time job with commuter-related company.
In March 20021, it is alleged that Cannon-Grant texted her husband that the unemployment office caught her and that she needed to give them documents or pay the money back.
Grant is alleged to have told a friend she should write a letter claiming the Violence In Boston HQ was permanently closed.
That person, who already had created phony letters so the pair could get housing benefits, didn’t write the letter. But she did compose a four-page letter that is backdated. Grant is alleged to have used it to get unemployment benefits she wasn’t entitled to.
The pair also allegedly used assets belonging to Violence In Boston to get a mortgage to buy a house in Taunton, MA.
$33k In Pandemic Relief Fraud Alleged
It also is alleged that Cannon-Grant got more than $33,000 in pandemic relief funds, according to the federal indictment. She also received money for consulting fees that she should not have gotten.
One payment was for a grant of $75,000 and was called the Phantom Gourmet TV program.
Cannon-Grant was placed under arrest by federal agents and released without bail. She is allowed to continue her work at Violence in Boston. But she is not allowed to handle money or finances.
Nonprofit Got Much Attention After George Floyd Case
Violence in Boston received a lot of national media attention in 2020 during the Black Lives Matter movement that swept the country. The murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police led to a larger national racial justice movement.
However, BLM has received considerable scrutiny recently over their lack of financial transparency. BLM leaders have conceded that they have not done a good job of managing the group’s governance and finances for several years.
BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors, quit as executive director of BLM Global in 2021 after her $3.2 million real estate ownership was examined.
BLM is more open about these financial matters today. It says an accounting firm is handling its money and spending. All spending needs to be approved by a collective action fund with a board comprised of people from several BLM chapters.
She did not comment after the arrest, but her attorney Robert Goldstein said federal prosecutors have rushed in the case and their client is innocent.
Both could face between five and 10 years in prison if convicted on all fraud charges.