A Black Lives Matter activist and her husband both pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges that they defrauded donors who gave to their nonprofit and spent most of the $1 million raised for their own personal gain.
Monica Cannon-Grant, 41, and Clark Grant, 38, used the funds from the charity to pay for restaurant meals, vacations and trip to the nail salon, an 18-page indictment handed down by a federal grand jury earlier this month alleges.
They’re also accused of illegally collecting an estimated $100,000 in pandemic unemployment benefits and lying on a mortgage application.
The couple founded nonprofit Violence in Boston in 2017, which received significant attention at the height of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in 2020.
On Tuesday, they pleaded not guilty to wire fraud, conspiracy, and making false statements on a mortgage application, when they appeared at their virtual arraignment.
Assistant US Attorney Adam Deitch told the judge on Tuesday that the case against the couple is ‘complex’ and involves a ‘massive’ amount of evidence. He requested four weeks to produce the first load of documents, which was granted.
A hearing is set for May 23.
Monica Cannon-Grant, 41, (pictured) along with her husband, Clark Grant, 38, of Taunton, Massachusetts, appeared at their arraignment virtually Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to fraud charges detailed in an 18-count indictment handed down earlier this month
Monica Cannon-Grant is pictured outside a Boston federal courthouse in March where she and her husband were charged with 18 counts of fraud totaling $1m
After George Floyd’s 2020 killing in Minneapolis, the subsequent surge of donations saw Cannon-Grant’s BLM foundation go from small, scrappy movement to maturing institution. Other organizations, like Cannon-Grant’s ‘Violence in Boston,’ also saw growth.
The couple maintained exclusive control over organization finances, and did not disclose to other Violence in Boston directors, bookkeepers, or financial auditors that they had used the funds for their own purposes, prosecutors added.
In March, the couple was arrested at their $450,000 Taunton residence. It remains unclear if funds given to the non-profit organization were used to buy the five-bedroom home, which was purchased in 2021, at the height of their alleged scamming.
Cannon-Grant also faces one count of mail fraud. She claims to have previously filed to the IRS and the state attorney general’s charity division that she has not been receiving a salary. However, prosecutors said that in October 2020, Cannon-Grant was paying herself $2,788 per week.
Cannon-Grant, once named a Bostonian of the Year by the prestigious Boston Globe newspaper, was released on personal recognizance.
She was also told by the judge that she may continue to work for her nonprofit – which runs a food pantry two days a week – but cannot handle the organization’s finances.
Grant, pictured at a September 2020 BLM rally, is said to have blown grants intended to help vulnerable young men on trips to restaurants and nail salons. She’s also accused of fraudulently obtaining $100,000 in pandemic relief, and lying on a mortgage application
The indictment released earlier this month, details the activist spending ‘$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, hundreds of dollars in fuel, parking and car rental costs; and hundreds of dollars in ATM withdrawals…’
Cannon-Grant claimed the charity didn’t pay any salary, but indictment alleges that she paid herself $2,788 a week, taking home $25,096 in 2020 and $170,092 last year, the U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement.
Cannon-Grant also received $33,426 in pandemic funds, the indictment read. She also received thousands of dollars in consulting fees to promote ‘diversity’ programs at private companies.
One of those payments included a $75,000 grant from a media company in Boston, called the Phantom Gourmet television program.
‘Unemployment caught my ass. Asked me to provide documents by June unless I’ll have to pay it all back,’ Cannon-Grant told her husband through text message on March 26, 2021, after realizing she’d been busted, according to prosecutors.
Cannon-Grant, 41, is also said to have paid herself $2,700-a-week and treated herself to a $450,000 five-bed house in Taunton, Massachusetts, last year
Cannon-Grant, 41, and her husband Clarke Grant, 38, were arrested at their home in Taunton, Massachusetts in March. It is unclear if any money from donations provided to Violence in Boston was used to purchase the $450k and five-bedroom property
The couple also lied to a mortgage lender by saying Violence in Boston’s assets were their own to help pay for fees and closing costs. Pictured: the interior of the Grants’ Taunton home
Cannon-Grant and her husband are said to have misappropriated grants intended for their charity, including a $6,000 check given to them by Suffolk District Attorney’s office in June 2019, intended to be spent on a retreat for young men feared to be at risk of falling into crime.
The retreat was supposed ‘to give these young men exposure to communities outside of the violence riddled neighborhoods that they navigate daily’ and give them exposure to activities focused on community-building and coping techniques,’ according to her grant proposal.
Instead, Cannon-Grant and Grant treated themselves to meals at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and Shake Shack, as well as a three-night trip to Maryland that included a $1,200 hotel stay, it is claimed.
Cannon-Grant is also said to have used some of the cash on multiple trips to a Boston nail salon, as well as car rentals, groceries and trips to Walmart.
Another alleged incident in 2017 saw $3,000 of a $10,000 donation for needy children spent on paying the couple’s rent arrears, it is claimed.
Cannon-Grant and her husband also fraudulently applied for $100,000 federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits that they knew they were not eligible to receive because they had other sources of income at the time, it is alleged.
They also lied to a mortgage lender by saying Violence in Boston’s assets were their own to help pay for mortgage fees and closing costs, prosecutors said.
Cannon Grant, a mother of six, was once given the ‘Bostonian of the Year’ award by The Boston Globe Magazine and hailed as the city’s ‘best social justice advocate’ by Boston Magazine
BLM leader Monica Cannon-Grant (R) speaks to protesters about their movement with the photos of people who have lost their lives, including George Floyd, to police racism across the US at Franklin Park in Boston, Massachusetts on June 2, 2020
The BLM Foundation has also faced intense scrutiny over financial transparency in recent months, and leaders admitted that they had not been clear about the movement’s finances and governance over the years.
BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors stepped down as executive director of the Black Lives Matter Global Network last year amid scrutiny of her $3.2 million property empire.
The foundation has since opened up about such matters. It says the fiscal sponsor currently managing its money requires spending be approved by a collective action fund, which is a board made up of representatives from official BLM chapters.