A Black Lives Matter organizer was charged with using her nonprofit to scam donors out of $185,000.
Monica Cannon-Grant and her husband, Clark Grant, established the Violence in Boston (VIB) organization in 2017. Cannon-Grant gained prominence as an activist that year after organizing the “Fight Supremacy” march in response to the “Unite the Right” rally in Virginia.
Cannon-Grant’s activism was celebrated in Boston. Boston Magazine named her “Best Social Justice Advocate” in 2020. The Roxbury Unity Community called her a “Leader of Tomorrow” and was celebrated as a “hero among us” by the NBA’s Boston Celtics, per Boston Herald.
Between 2017 and 2021, the couple raised $1 million in donations.
On March 14, U.S. District Attorney’s Office in Massachusettes indicted Cannon-Grant and Grant on 18 counts related to fraud.
“From 2017 to 2021, Cannon-Grant and Clark Grant, through VIB fundraising, solicited and received over a million dollars in donations and grants from individuals, charitable institutions, and other entities,” reports the indictment signed by Assistant U.S. District Attorney Dustin Chao.
The government contends the couple and unnamed associates defrauded VIB donors and the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance. The couple is also accused of falsely representing personal and VIB assets to get a mortgage as well as carrying out a wire fraud conspiracy for their personal gain.
Cannon-Grant and Grant “diverted VIB monies to themselves through cash withdrawals, cashed checks, wire transfers to their personal bank accounts, and debit purchases, among other methods,” per WBUR.
According to the government, the money was deposited in a PayPal account and a Bank of America account associated with VIB.
The document notes that in her capacity as CEO of VIB, Cannon-Grant increased her weekly pay in October 2020 to just over $2,700 a week. At that time, she reported to the IRS that she was not making a salary through her nonprofit. While she earned about $25,000 in 2017, she earned just over $170,000 in 2021.
Cannon-Grant used VID money to pay for personal expenses including “$145 at a Boston nail salon,” “over $400 in grocery and Walmart purchases in Columbia, MD,” “hundreds of dollars in meals 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, Columbia, MD” and “hundreds of dollars in fuel, parking and car rental costs; and hundreds of dollars in ATM withdrawals.”
Among their donors was the Cambridge chapter of Black Lives Matter which donated $3,000 to VIB on Aug. 22, 2017 via PayPal. The money was transferred later that week to the couple’s personal bank account.
Cannon-Grant was arrested on March 15.
In a prepared statement, her attorney Robert Goldstein told the media his client was fully cooperating with law enforcement and claimed prosecutors “rushed 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. “We remain fully confident Monica will be vindicated when a complete factual record emerges.”