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Former Democrat fundraiser pleads guilty to embezzling money from shuttered LA anti-poverty group

By Orlando Mayorquin, USA TODAY,

Storm clouds blanket the Los Angeles skyline as seen from Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area following a rainstorm in Los Angeles Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023. Damian Dovarganes, AP

The ex-director of a shuttered Los Angeles anti-poverty nonprofit, and a well-known Democrat fundraiser pleaded guilty Tuesday to embezzling money from the nonprofit, which received federal funding, prosecutors announced.

Prosecutors charged Howard Dixon Slingerland with embezzling and misappropriating thousands of dollars from the federally-funded Youth Policy Institute, which provided education, job training and other services to reduce youth poverty in Los Angeles.

Slingerland spent roughly $71,000 the organization's funds on lavish dinners and other personal expenses.

He pleaded guilty to one count of “conversion and intentional misapplication of funds from an organization receiving federal money,” and one count of lying on tax return.

The organization received more than $281 million in federal grants from 2009 to 2019, the year Slingerland was ousted as its executive director, a role he held since 1996. The nonprofit closed in 2019.  Federal grants constituted the bulk of the Youth Policy Institute's funding, according to the plea agreement.

Slingerland faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for the embezzlement count, and three years for the tax count, according to the Department of Justice.

Fine dining

According to the plea agreement, Slingerland spent $71,533 from the Youth Policy Institute on “unauthorized expenditures” between Jan. 2015 and Feb. 2019.

The spending included:

  • $14,703 to pay the property tax on Slingerland’s home in May 2017.
  • $6,131 on a family dinner at Momofuku Ko, an upscale, two-star Michelin restaurant in New York City, in Nov. 2017.
  • $10,805 on tutoring for a family member in early 2018.
  • $1,979 on a computer and software in Feb. 2019.

Slingerland also misspent part of a $1.5 million federal grant his organization received to put toward a job opportunity program for young adults who had had run-ins with the criminal justice system, according to the plea agreement.

  • $401,561 on Youth Policy Institute’s payroll, unauthorized under the grant, in July 2019.
  • $201,466 to make payments on Youth Policy Institute’s credit cards, which included charges incurred by Slingerland.

A statement provided by Slingerland’s attorney, Vicki Podberesky, suggested Slingerland misallocated grant funds in 2019 in part to “cover salaries and costs to keep the cash-strapped nonprofit afloat and its employees working while awaiting payment from the U.S. Department of Education for services delivered.”

Unreported income

  • According to the plea deal, Slingerland failed to report a total of about $450,000 in income on tax returns from 2016 to 2019.

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Slingerland fundraised for Obama, had ties to LA mayor

Slingerland was also a major fundraiser during former president Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns.

Nonprofit went under in 2019

  • Faced with dire financial strife, the nonprofit fired Slingerland as its CEO in Sept. 2019, the Los Angeles Times reported.
  • IRS filings show Slingerland made roughly $350,00 to $400,000 annually in his final years as CEO.
  • The Youth Policy Institute announced its permanent closure the following month in Oct. 2019.
  • Mayor Garcetti lamented the loss of the programs the nonprofit provided when it closed, the Los Angeles Times reported.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Former Democrat fundraiser pleads guilty to embezzling money from shuttered LA anti-poverty group

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