June 22, 2018
Grant Received; Gala Postponed; Fraud Ensnares Nonprofits

May 16, 2017 — Esplanade Association gets grant for youth and family outreach...Boston Children's Theatre welcomes back artistic director, but postpones its gala...Seven Massachusetts nonprofits duped into enabling bank fraud.

Esplanade Association Gets Grant for Youth and Family Outreach Programs

The Esplanade Association (EA), a Boston nonprofit that maintains and improves the Charles River Esplanade, recently announced that it received a $15,000 grant from The Reebok Foundation to support two youth and family outreach programs this summer.

EA sad it hopes to encourage outdoor family time, boost physical activity, and promote cross-community interest in preserving and caring for the Esplanade through the two programs, Children in the Park (ChiP ) and Family Walks on the Charles River Esplanade.

“We are so grateful to the Reebok Foundation for supporting our summer outreach initiatives this year,” said Tani Marinovich, EA’s executive director. “Both ChiP and Family Walks will introduce the Esplanade to children and families who may not know about the park or our programs, despite living just a few T stops away. Our goal is not only to educate visitors about the park and its ecosystem, but also to encourage physical activity within the park and to foster continued use and engagement.”

Boston Children's Theatre Welcomes Back Artistic Director, Postpones Gala

Boston Children’s Theatre (BCT), a Boston nonprofit that provides theatrical experiences aimed at fostering artistic and personal development of diverse youth, last week reinstated its artistic director, Burgess Clark, following several weeks of upheaval during which at least three board members resigned, the staff went on strike, and its annual fundraising gala was postponed.

The ruckus followed the reported inclusion of a nude scene in BCT's production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” last month, although, according to a WBUR report, the theater posted signs warning about the nudity as well as a notice on its website that no one under 14 would be admitted.

Board members Peggy Barresi and Nicole Gakidis resigned after demanding that the nude scene be cut, according to a report in The Boston Globe, followed by board chair Hank Miller, who reportedly announced his departure at an emergency board meeting. The three names are still listed among the 15 people identified on the BCT website as members of the board of directors.

The gala, scheduled for today, has been postponed, although a new date has not yet been announced.

BCT employees reportedly went on strike on May 6, which led to cancellation of classes.

"We are pleased to announce that BCT is operating again, the staff have returned to their jobs, all classes will resume, and we continue to prepare for a successful Summer Studios season," the organization wrote in an email issued last week by the 66-year-old organization.

Supporters who had donated to support the gala were given the option of re-purposing the gift to another BCT program, requesting its return, or applying it to the rescheduled gala

Seven Massachusetts Nonprofits Duped Into Enabling Bank Fraud

Three people, including a former senior vice president at Bank of America, were charged in federal court in Boston yesterday with engaging in a scheme to embezzle more than $2.7 million from the bank using fraudulent donations to seven Massachusetts nonprofits, funds which the defendants allegedly used for personal expenses.

According to the U.S. attorney's office, the defendants engaged in an embezzlement and kickback scheme from October 2010 to April 2015, in which the former bank official, Palestine Ace, age 45, authorized 75 transfers, each under $50,000, from a bank marketing budget to nonprofits in Boston and Atlanta.

According to the indictment, $1,038,000 was paid to seven unnamed Boston area nonprofits, which focus on basketball and educational programs for Boston youth, with one nonprofit receiving $340,000 through the scheme.

The defendants informed the nonprofit organizations that a substantial portion of the donated funds must be returned in order to ensure that Bank of America would continue to fund them. The nonprofits were told to write a check to one of the two other defendants or return funds to a Bank of America account, to which the defendants had access, the U.S. attorney's office said.

Leigh Tucker, managing director of nonprofit solutions at Accounting Management Solutions/CliftonLarsonAllen LLP, said, "Nonprofits must always be diligent when it comes to handling funds. If a donor asks that part of a donation be returned as a condition of receiving the gift, a highly unusual request, the nonprofit at the least should consult with financial advisors on the propriety of receiving the gift."

Ace and her husband, Jonathan R. Ace, 46; and Brianna Alexis Forde, 35, of Boston, were each indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, according to the U.S. attorney's office. In addition, Palestine Ace was indicted on 12 counts of bank fraud and four counts of wire fraud; Jonathan Ace was also charged with two counts of wire fraud and one engaging in an unlawful monetary transaction; and Forde was also indicted on two counts of wire fraud.

Read about detecting and preventing fraud in nonprofits.

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