Thursday, June 20, 2024

Ex-CEO of Defunct L.A.-Based Non-Profit Admits to Embezzlement

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The ousted CEO of a Hollywood anti-poverty group is staring down a 13-year federal prison sentence after agreeing to plead guilty to two felony embezzlement charges after he was caught using funds meant for the non-profit on personal expenses, including property taxes on his L.A. home, a private tutor for his children, and a $6,100 dinner.  

Dixon Slingerland was president of the Youth Policy Institute from 1996 until 2019, shortly before the organization filed for bankruptcy. The 53-year-old admitted to spending over $71,000 on the company’s AmEx for personal expenses; he has been charged with illegally converting and misapplying funds from an organization receiving federal money and filing a false federal income tax return.

YPI claimed that the funds were misused to pad Slingerland’s pension fund, his home office furniture, lavish dining (including a $6100 bill at New York’s Momofuku Ko), travel, and entertainment, as well as for personal political donations, court documents show. The former head of the research, evaluation, and policy center—who took home an annual salary of $400,000—underreported nearly $450,000 in personal income and still owes $147,398 in unpaid taxes. However, when the group asked him to repay more than $1.7 million, Slingerland disputed the numbers.

“YPI still owes me money,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 2019.   

The Hollywood-based non-profit, which reported an income of nearly $47 million in 2018, offered what it described as “cradle to college” assistance for low-income families at over 100 locations in Southern California, including operations in Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley. Founded in 1983 with help from the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Fund, YPI ran charter schools, a day laborer hiring center outside of the Hollywood Home Depot, a computer center in Pacoima, and job training services in the Pico-Union district. Nearly 1000 employees were suddenly unemployed when the organization ceased operations at the end of 2019.

Slingerland, a minister’s son, was raised in Ohio and Brooklyn. He took over YPI in 1996 and moved it from Washington, D.C. to L.A. He was under consideration to lead the Los Angeles Unified School District in 2015 and has been described as one of the top Democratic fundraisers in the city; he has also been a major figure in that party’s donor pool, hosting at least seven fundraisers for former Mayor Eric Garcetti and raising more than $743,000 for Barack Obama’s campaign; throughout his career, he’s made several visits to the White House. 

Slingerland’s attorney released a statement saying that his client “takes responsibility for the mistakes he made.” 

According to the Department of Justice, Slingerland faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison on the conversion count and three years in federal prison on the tax count.

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