A prominent Black Lives Matter activist honored as “Bostonian of the Year” in 2020 was indicted on Tuesday alongside her husband on accusations of treating an anti-violence charity as a personal piggy bank.
Prosecutors said Monica Cannon-Grant and her husband, Clark Grant, conspired to use their charity, Violence in Boston , as a vehicle for personal enrichment when they founded the group in 2017. The pair was indicted on charges of stealing donations that were meant to purchase meals for needy children, help at-risk young men cope with violence in their neighborhoods, and organize conferences for black women to pay for rent, vacations, nail salon services, and meals at Bubba Gump Shrimp.
As Cannon-Grant’s profile grew in 2020 during the nationwide unrest that followed George Floyd’s killing, so too did donations to the charity.
“With this larger influx of VIB funds, Cannon-Grant and Clark Grant began to help themselves to greater amounts from the VIB Bank Account,” prosecutors wrote in the 18-count indictment , saying that she began paying herself $2,788 per week from Violence in Boston beginning in October 2020.
The pair faces 13 counts of wire fraud, each of which carries a sentence of up to 20 years of prison, prosecutors said in a statement on Tuesday.
Cannon-Grant and her husband were also charged with lying in a mortgage application by claiming the charity’s bank account as an asset when they applied for a $450,000 mortgage in July 2021.
The pair also faces charges of illegally obtaining a combined $101,376 in COVID-19 unemployment assistance in 2020 while Cannon-Grant simultaneously raked in $12,500 payments for providing “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion consulting services.”
Prosecutors said that Cannon-Grant defrauded donors to the charity as early as August 2017, when a local BLM chapter donated $3,000 to the group to help support its program to feed needy children and that two days later, Cannon-Grant transferred the funds to a bank account belonging to one of her family members, who subsequently withdrew the funds in cash.
One month later, in September 2017, Cannon-Grant allegedly cashed a $10,400 grant to the charity earmarked for meals for needy children in the Boston school system into her personal bank account and subsequently pulled $3,111 from the grant to pay for rent at her Boston residence.
Prosecutors said that Cannon-Grant and her husband often made cash withdrawals from Violence in Boston’s bank account to “avoid a financial paper trail.”
In 2019, Violence in Boston received a $6,000 grant from the Massachusetts District Attorney’s Office to fund a retreat for at-risk young men to help them develop skills to cope with violence in their neighborhoods. But prosecutors said the funds were ultimately used to pay for a vacation to Columbia, Maryland, in which Cannon-Grant and her husband spent hundreds of dollars on nail salon services, meals at Bubba Gump Shrimp, and cash ATM withdraws.
Also in 2019, Cannon-Grant cashed a $500 charitable contribution into her personal checking account that was intended to support a “Black Women & Marginalized Genders” conference co-hosted by her charity, the indictment alleges.
Cannon-Grant’s attorney, Robert Goldstein , said Tuesday that he is “extremely disappointed the government rushed to judgment here.”
“VIB and Monica have been fully cooperating, and their production of records remains ongoing,” Goldstein said. “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.”
Cannon-Grant denied the charges and did not respond to questions from reporters as she left a federal courthouse Tuesday.
Here is Monica Cannon-Grant leaving the Moakley federal courthouse. She did not want to make a comment, and left in a black SUV. Her lead defense attorney Robert Goldstein says he is very disappointed by her arrest and they’ve been cooperating fully with investigators. pic.twitter.com/GYjaThkgKV
— Jonathan Hall (@JHall7news) March 15, 2022
A judge authorized Cannon-Grant to continue working at the charity while her case progresses, but she was prohibited from handling its finances.
Cannon-Grant acknowledged in a podcast filmed on March 3 that she has been under federal investigation since October. She said that members of the black community jealous of her success “partnered with white supremacy” to take her down.
“In 2020, we went from a $40,000-, $50,000-a-year organization to a [multimillion-dollar] organization — more money, more problems,” Cannon-Grant said. “The moment funding started coming in and the world started seeing us doing the work, which prompted awards and accolades, it was, ‘I want what she got. She don’t deserve it.'”
Violence in Boston has no known relationship to the national BLM group, but news of the federal investigation comes as the national organization faces its own reckoning over its finances.
The BLM Global Network Foundation, the charity that serves as the face of the national BLM movement and has faced accusations of financial impropriety from local BLM activists, voluntarily shut down its ability to raise funds in early February after a Washington Examiner investigation found that the group has, since May, had no known leader in charge of the tens of millions of dollars it raised in 2020