Violence In Boston Founder Indicted On 18 Counts

Monica Cannon-Grant, the founder and CEO of Boston-based Violence in Boston (VIB), and her husband Clark Grant, a founding director of VIB, have been charged with 13 counts of wire fraud, two counts of wire fraud conspiracy, one count of conspiracy and one count of making false statements to a mortgage-lending business. Cannon-Grant was additionally charged with one count of mail fraud.

VIB is a nonprofit that highlights disparities around violence in communities of color, according to the organization’s website.

Between 2017 and 2021, VIB raised more than $1 million in donations and grants, according to the indictment papers. In one illustrative instance, Cannon-Grant allegedly applied for and received a $10,400 grant on behalf of VIB from a Massachusetts-based department store company in September 2017. As VIB had not received a tax-exempt status ruling at the time, the department store company was directed to issue the check payable to a church based in Charlottesville, Va. The church then issued a check, ostensibly for food distributions, payable to “Monica Cannon/Violence in Boston” at her home address. Information about the funds was not relayed to other VIB directors or fiduciaries, according to prosecutors.

Other funds were allegedly deposited in a VIB bank account and PayPal account that Cannon-Grant and Grant maintained exclusive control over, despite VIB having a treasurer and other directors, according to the court papers. The two issued funds to themselves through cash withdrawals, checks, debit purchases and wire transfers to their personal bank accounts, among other methods.

Cannon-Grant and Grant allegedly used charitable contributions to VIB from institutions and individual funders for personal expenses including auto repairs, car rentals, food deliveries, gas, nail salons, personal travel, restaurant meals and Uber rides, according to a statement from the Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Massachusetts. Additionally, between October 2020 and 2021, Cannon-Grant issued herself payroll payments that totaled more than $195,000, according to the indictment papers. While doing so, the two represented themselves to donors and state organizations as being uncompensated executives.

The two also presented VIB assets as personal assets to a mortgage lender as part of a home mortgage loan application, the court paper allege. And during the coronavirus pandemic, both Cannon-Grant and Grant collected Pandemic Unemployment Assistance from the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance, despite Grant being employed by a commuter services company and both allegedly having income from their fraudulent activities.

If the allegations are proven true, they will mark a fall for Cannon-Grant and Grant. In 2021, Cannon-Grant was named 78th in Boston Magazine’s “100 Most Influential Bostonians.” The write-up noted her penchant for strong rhetoric, but added “Cannon-Grant has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to organize on an attention-getting scale in the tens of thousands, without having an event get out of control or step on its own message. That’s not easy, and it has the attention of Boston politicians, who increasingly want to work with her and help her….” Earlier, both Cannon-Grant and Grant had been named to the Boston Globe Magazine’s “Bostonians of the Year in 2020.”

Cannon-Grant was arrested on Tuesday, March 15, according to a statement from the Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Massachusetts. Later that day, she was released on personal recognizance, according to multiple published reports. As part of her release, she is prohibited from working in any position that gives her access to an organization’s finances. She is similarly barred from applying for employment benefits, grants and loans. Cannon-Grant and Grant are expected to be arraigned during the week of March 21, according to multiple reports.

As of 2019, Violence in Boston had gross receipts of $85, 403, $7,386 in assets and $0 in liabilities, according to a posting on GuideStar by Candid. According to court papers, VIB filed its 2017, 2018 and 2019 Form 990-EZs with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. GuideStar does not have those filings posted.

The phone at the organization kicked to a voice mail which had not be updated since October 2021. A statement to media released by Cannon-Grant’s lawyer, Rob Goldstein, called the indictment rushed and predicted Cannon-Grant would be exonerated. “We are extremely disappointed the government rushed to judgment here. VIB and Monica have been fully cooperating and their production of records remains ongoing,” Goldstein said in the statement, reported by WBUR.org, Boston’s NPR news station. “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.”