Mayor: FBI, Virginia AG Office investigating financial collapse of Enrichmond Foundation

Posted at 6:25 PM, Apr 04, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-05 06:39:53-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Following the collapse of the Enrichmond Foundation, which served as a financial umbrella organization for more than 80 different groups in Richmond, the FBI and Virginia's Attorney General is investigating the situation, according to Richmond’s Mayor and multiple groups involved.

The scope and manner of the investigation are unclear, but the groups involved in them said both offices had reviewed documents related to their financial situation and how it relates to Enrichmond.

When contacted by CBS 6, the Richmond Office of the FBI said they could not confirm or deny any ongoing investigations. The Attorney General’s office confirmed they are investigating but could not provide further comment.

Contact information for Enrichmond has been mostly scrubbed from the internet and email formerly connected to the nonprofit did not work. A message to former board members has not been returned.

The decades-old non-profit served as an umbrella organization for dozens of smaller "Friends of" groups in the city, and from 2019 to 2022 the foundation was responsible for the upkeep of East End and Evergreen cemeteries, two historic Black burial grounds in Central Virginia.

Enrichmond allowed the groups it served to use its non-profit status to raise funds, which it would hold onto and release upon request.

 However, after Enrichmond’s board voted to dissolve in June 2022 those groups said they have been unable to access that money and do not know if they ever will. As of January, the State Corporation Commission told CBS 6 that no paperwork had been filed to begin that process.

“Enrichmond has not officially dissolved yet; there's no official dissolution of Enrichmond. However, we are happy to hear that the Office of the Attorney General will be doing their own investigation as well, and potentially federal partners might be involved in investigating what occurred here,” Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said. “We think it's very, very important that we bring some sort of resolution to the number of private citizens who've been involved in bettering their communities through these friends' groups.”

“We're getting information week by week. The Attorney General's Office visited, went through some of the documents. We have an attorney who represents us on a pro bono basis, five of the organizations of the 80, because we were the hardest financially hit,” said Becky Lakin, founder/director of The Giving Wall. “There's new information coming from her searching, and so it's just week by week the world changes. Week by week, there's more hopeful optimism that comes with the support system that's investigating.”

Stoney met with five of the groups Tuesday and discussed the $250,000 he’s proposed in the 2024 budget to help these groups fund future projects supporting the betterment and beautification of Richmond.

“Let me just say that it is not [the City’s] fiduciary responsibility to make us whole. This was the egregious errors of an organization that did not do what they needed to do,” Lakin said. “It's more than nothing. And the fact that they came with anything is awesome. It's something in the face of the loss of everything; that matters.”

Stoney said city leaders plan to have future conversations about possibly helping these smaller groups, which operate mostly off donated dollars and function largely through volunteer work.

“We want to help first; that's our number one priority, is to help with future projects. So, we're going to provide new money for new projects,” Stoney said. “As we look to the future, we do see there may be a role for the city to play. We don't know what that role may look like. But we know that there's a number of these organizations that need a fiscal agent, that need the sort of back of house sort of support.”

The city council will take up the proposed budget in the coming weeks.

Council is also supposed to take up the other aspect of the Enrichmond collapse in the coming months: potentially taking control of two historically Black cemeteries -- East End and Evergreen.

 Enrichmond took control of the cemeteries several years ago and city officials said their charter stated the properties could be given to the city in the event of the non-profit's dissolution.

 In February, a resolution that would have directed city staff to begin planning for a transfer was introduced. However, before a council committee could take up the paper, it was withdrawn as its sponsors said more details needed to be worked out and it would be delayed at least 90 days.

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