Crime

Here’s why Rachael Rollins is recused from the fraud case against Monica Cannon-Grant

Prosecutors allege the well-known local activist defrauded donors of her nonprofit, Violence In Boston -- including the former district attorney.

Monica Cannon-Grant leaves federal court in Boston on Tuesday. John Tlumacki / The Boston Globe
Monica Cannon-Grant

There were 21 local nonprofits that received a piece of a $100,000 pie from Rachael Rollins, when the prolific prosecutor was the Suffolk County district attorney in July 2019.

The rollout of the grants for organizations working with youth in Boston, Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop was an annual program — a program lauded as a direct infusion to communities in Rollins’s efforts to promote public safety.

The cash was all from assets seized by authorities, with the program’s intention to transform the money from a product of nefarious dealings into a vehicle of justice.

That year, Rollins also bumped the offering by almost $40,000 — a move her office said was indicative of the progressive prosecutor’s “commitment to building meaningful, effective relationships with organizations that are doing the weighty work of engaging youth and building leadership capacity,” a press release published at the time said.

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Rollins, in a statement, touted the nonprofits on the receiving end as “organizations providing services vital to public safety.”

On the list was Violence In Boston, the nonprofit founded in 2017 by Monica Cannon-Grant that strives to reduce violence and address related trauma while also advocating against social injustices, its website says.

Violence In Boston took home $6,000 — funding that was to be used for a youth retreat that September to Philadelphia.

But now federal prosecutors say that trip never happened.

Cannon-Grant, 41, and her husband, Clark Grant, 38, were charged in a grand jury indictment on Tuesday — charges handed down by Rollins in her new office as the commonwealth’s U.S. attorney, a post she assumed in January.

The couple, prosecutors allege, defrauded donors of the nonprofit they founded, taking thousands from the coffers to buy various things for themselves, from covering their rents to travel expenses to restaurant meals and Uber rides.

The two were also charged with committing mortgage fraud and defrauding the government of approximately $100,000 in unemployment benefits — allegations Grant was initially charged with in October.

Rollins, who has not been accused of any wrongdoing, will not be involved in the case, however.

A spokesperson for Rollins told Boston.com in an email Wednesday morning Rollins is recused from the prosecution due to Department of Justice policy.

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The federal investigation into the couple apparently also began before Rollins’s tenure as the state’s top federal prosecutor started earlier this year.

Asked whether Rollins had any reaction to the charges, the spokesperson said, “She does not have any further statement.”

According to the 38-page indictment, Grant and Cannon-Grant allegedly spent the thousands they received for Violence In Boston from Rollins’s office in 2019 on a personal vacation to Columbia, Maryland.

Cannon-Grant allegedly booked a hotel reservation for three nights and two rooms around June 1, 2019. At the time, she had $1.35 in her bank account, while Grant had a balance of $21.01 and the Violence In Boston account was overdrawn, with a balance of -$84.20, prosecutors wrote.

Violence In Boston submitted a grant application to Rollins’s office around June 6, 2019, seeking $10,000.

Cannon-Grant, in the application, certified the money would be used to “bring 10 at-risk young men and 2 adult youth workers from the under-served community of Roxbury on a three day Violence Prevention Retreat in Philadelphia,” according to the indictment.

“The purpose of this trip (is) to give these young men exposure to communities outside of the violence riddled neighborhoods that they navigate daily,” the application stated. “During this retreat we will focus on community building activities, developing coping skills to deal with trauma and violence, and focus on increasing morale.”

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Cannon-Grant signed the paperwork, agreeing “funds awarded will be used only for the purpose authorized” and that “an after action report will be provided…at the completion of the project/program.”

Violence In Boston ultimately received $6,000 from the district attorney’s office.

“As district attorney, I know the difference that these programs have in the lives of our young people,” Rollins said in a statement at the time. “Our communities are stronger thanks to the dedication of our nonprofits and their staff who work daily to prevent youth violence and substance use and who focus on improving the mental health of our young people in Suffolk County. They deserve all of our thanks and support.”

Cannon-Grant accepted the grant on June 28, 2019, and cashed the check that day, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors wrote bank records show the couple spent the money on various personal expenses, including:

  • $145 at a Boston nail salon
  • Over $400 for groceries and Walmart purchases in Maryland
  • “Hundreds of dollars” in meal expenses in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Maryland, “including at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Shake Shack, and other restaurants.”
  • $1,211 in charges at Sonesta Suites in Columbia, Maryland
  • “Hundreds of dollars” of charges for “fuel, parking, and car rental costs”
  • “Hundreds of dollars” in ATM withdrawls

By July 31, 2019, the Violence In Boston bank account showed a negative balance of -$552.38, officials wrote.

“None of the July 2019 VIB bank activity showed transactions in Philadelphia, PA, nor did the September 2019 VIB bank account statement,” the indictment states.

In a July 15, 2019, email, Cannon-Grant explained to a member of a local organization she was unable to respond to emails in prior days because, “I was on vacation,” prosecutors wrote.

“Neither Cannon-Grant nor Clark Grant disclosed to VIB directors that they had used the $6,000 grant for their July 2019 personal vacation to Columbia, MD,” the indictment reads. “Cannon-Grant and Clark Grant never submitted an ‘after action report’ to (the district attorney’s office) that disclosed how the $6,000 …grant was spent.”

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Cannon-Grant made an initial appearance in federal court in Boston on Tuesday, where she was released on personal recognizance.

Judge Judith Dein, however, ordered Cannon-Grant adhere to conditions that she not apply for any loans, grants, or unemployment benefits and refrain from working in any position that allows her access to an organization’s finances.

Rob Goldstein, an attorney representing Cannon-Grant, told The Boston Globe in a statement Tuesday the “government rushed to judgment here.”

“VIB and Monica have been fully cooperating and their production of records remains ongoing,” Goldstein said. “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. We remain fully confident Monica will be vindicated when a complete factual record emerges.”

Cannon-Grant’s Twitter account — which she used in recent days to cast doubt on the Globe‘s credibility as it first reported last week federal authorities were conducting an investigation — was deleted by Wednesday morning.

She is expected to be arraigned next week.

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