July 31, 2014

Former Non-Profit Executives Charged with Stealing Funds Intended to Help the Homeless

An information and a separate indictment, filed today, charge Erica N. Brown, 38, of Glenolden, PA, and Nathaniel E. Robinson, 62, of Philadelphia, of using funds intended to help the homeless to pay for their own personal and living expenses. The charges were announced by United States Attorney Zane David Memeger and Philadelphia Inspector General Amy Kurland.

Brown was the Chief Operating Officer at SELF, Inc., and Robinson was the Chief Program Officer. They are each charged with theft from a program receiving federal funds. According to the charges, between approximately 2005 and 2010, Brown used her corporate American Express credit card at SELF to charge approximately $198,628 of personal expenses. She reimbursed a total of $4,867 before her employment ended. Between 2006 and 2010, Robinson allegedly used his corporate American Express credit card at SELF to charge approximately $154,309 of personal expenses. Robinson reimbursed a total of $2,594.30 before his employment was terminated.

“Every organization that receives taxpayer funding must act as responsible stewards of that money. That duty is even more important in a case like this, where funds were designated to help some of Philadelphia’s residents who are most in need,” said City of Philadelphia Inspector General Amy Kurland. “This case sends a strong message that misappropriating taxpayer money will not be tolerated. I would like to also thank our federal law enforcement partners for their close cooperation in this investigation.”

According to the information, Brown charged personal travel and lodging expenses in places such as the Caribbean, Orlando, and Cape May; personal dining expenses, from groceries and purchases at Wawa’s to meals at the Four Seasons; personal automobile repairs and insurance payments; vehicle rentals, including a Hummer rental; children’s toys; clothing, including five pair of Ugg boots; a gym membership with the services of a personal trainer; and pet medical services, among many other expenses. In total, Brown charged approximately $198,628 of personal expenses to her corporate American Express card between approximately April 2005 and November 2010.

According to the indictment, Robinson used the corporate American Express card to pay for car rental charges, in Philadelphia and elsewhere; repairs to his personal car; dining charges in Philadelphia, Disney World, Orlando, and numerous other cities; lodging charges, including charges at hotels on weekends in the Philadelphia area as well as charges for lodging in the Dominican Republic and in Mobile, Alabama, where Robinson has family; travel expenses, including airfare for himself and a family member; charges at a variety of stores including DSW Shoe Warehouse, the Boot Barn, Boot City, Nike, Foot Locker, Modell’s, Maron Chocolates, World Embroidery, Disney’s Ear Port, Circuit City, Best Buy, IKEA, Sears, and Walmart; parking tickets; legal fees; and entertainment charges at places such as Morey’s Pier, Clementon Park, and Six Flags Great Adventure.

If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of 10 years in prison, restitution, up to three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.

The case was initiated by a tip to the Philadelphia Office of the Inspector General and was also investigated by the FBI. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Karen L. Grigsby.

An Indictment or Information is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.