Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. has filed a lawsuit to shut down the Monterey County AIDS Project and recover more than $2.8 million intended for the benefit of people affected by HIV/AIDS that was illegally diverted to other uses.
Brown said that former officers and directors of the Seaside charity, called MCAP, took some of the money for personal use and for-profit ventures, in violation of state law and a May 2000 court order specifying that at least $1.8 million be used “solely for the purpose of providing housing for people with the HIV disease.” The complaint alleges that another $1 million in other grants and donations was misspent as well.
“The duty of these officers and directors was to protect the charity’s assets so the funds could be used for the support of very sick people,” Brown said. “Instead, they violated their trust and spent the money any way they wanted.”
The Attorney General’s lawsuit, fil! ed Friday in Monterey County Superior Court, seeks to dissolve MCAP, obtain a complete accounting of its finances, and recover any remaining assets dissipated through “the mismanagement and neglect of former officers and members of its board of directors.” Brown also seeks return of assets that were illegally diverted. Sixteen former officers and directors are named.
The complaint describes a scheme in which the MCAP officials, over nearly a decade, drained the organization’s coffers of money earmarked for HIV/AIDS patients.
The organization’s record-keeping was so sloppy and incomplete that it’s hard to determine exactly where all the money went. MCAP continued to provide housing and services for AIDS patients, but at a lesser level than its overall expenditures would suggest.
Some of the charity’s money was spent on unauthorized expenditures, such as meals at expensive restaurants, personal expenses on credit cards, purchasing ite! ms for personal use at auctions, personal moving and storage e! xpenses, a personal mortgage payment, and steam-cleaning a carpet in a private residence.
MCAP was created in 1985 to provide support, resources and services, including housing assistance and hospice care, for HIV/AIDS patients in Seaside, north of Monterey.
Eleven years ago, MCAP received $1.8 million in cash and property from the estate of Douglas E. Madsen, a Monterey County resident, with the restriction that the bequest be used for the sole purpose of housing active AIDS patients.
But, according to Brown’s complaint, more than $2.8 million of charitable assets, including the Madsen money, was “misappropriated, misapplied or wasted.” In 1999, MCAP listed assets of $2.1 million. By 2004, that had dwindled to $1.4 million, and by 2007, only $205,000 was left.
As Attorney General, Brown is the official charged with ensuring that charitable organizations in California spend their money for the purposes specified by th! eir founding documents, internal policies and state law.
MCAP’s filings with the Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts can be found at http://ag.ca.gov/charities/index.php
The complaint is attached.