Rep. Gregory Meeks’ Charity Looks More Like Slush Fund

Meeks photoRep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), already under scrutiny for his relationship with Ponzi billionaire Allen Stanford, is deeply involved with a nonprofit group in Queens, New York called New Direction Local Development Corporation. Our review of IRS tax returns, New York state budget records, and other documents suggests that New Direction does little development. Instead, it appears to operate to the benefit of Meeks and a state Senator named Malcolm Smith, and much of the money it has raised is simply unaccounted for.

New Direction has received at least $56,500 in New York state taxpayer funds since 2001, at the direction of Smith in the form of “member items,” the state equivalent of an earmark. The group’s largest donation of $250,000 came in 2004 from a company called International Airport Centers, which successfully sought permission to build an airport cargo facility near JFK airport in their districts. New Direction also collected thousands of dollars for Hurricane Katrina victims.

The funds appear to have been paid out for meals and entertainment, and to cronies of the two politicians in the form of consulting fees. Payments were also made to satisfy IRS penalties. Large sums of money seem to simply disappear from the group’s own filings.

According to its website, the New Direction mission is to:

…foster economic development in Southeast Queens. Such economic development shall include rehabilitation and revitalization of commercial districts, the creation of affordable housing, and an increase in home ownership in the area.

According to the same website:

Founded February, 2001 by the initiatives of congressman Gregory Meeks and senator Malcolm Smith, New Direction Local Development Corporation, (” NDLDC”) is incorporated in New York State as a not for profit corporation. It applied for and received not for profit recognition under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

From 2002 to 2008, the group’s address was the office of a lawyer named Joan Flowers, who served as campaign treasurer for both Meeks and Smith. Flowers is a well-connected political operative, who is also the current campaign treasurer of New York Governor David Paterson.

The money raised for Katrina victims raises numerous questions. New Direction set up a special fund called New Yorkers Organized to Assist Hurricane Families (NOAH-F).

In 2005, Meeks’ campaign committee donated $10,000 to NOAH-F, but according to a 2008 amended filing (below), received $5,000 of it back under circumstances that remain unclear.

New Direction received at least $15,000 from other donors for Katrina relief, including proceeds of $11,210 from a benefit gospel concert, but New Directions reported only a single expenditure of $1,392 for aid to Katrina victims on its tax returns.

Meeks gets check

This photo is from the Winter 2005 newsletter of Assemblywoman Barbara Clark. The original caption reads:

“Big Check” for a Big Cause: Assemblywoman Clark presents a check for eleven thousand, two hundred and ten dollars ($11,210) on behalf of the community to Chairman Congressman Gregory Meeks and Treasurer Mortimer Lawrence, Esq. of the New Yorkers Organized to Assist Hurricane Families (NOAH-F) relief fund. The total proceeds were raised by the Hurricane Katrina Gospel Benefit Concert.

The Times-Ledger, a Queens newspaper, reported:

U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D- St. Albans) laid out a detailed plan to support 30 families displaced by Hurricane Katrina during an emergency meeting Friday with other elected officials from southeast Queens, clergy and area residents. The congressman said the plan would help support the families for six months, which includes full rent payments and utilities up to $1,500 a month for those displaced by the storm. The fund-raising goal for the plan would be $270,000. He said there would be no administrative costs attached to the effort.

“Every dime, every dime would go to these 30 families,” Meeks said. He said a special fund, called NOAH’s Families, or New Yorkers Organized to Assist Hurricane Families, was created to help storm victims.  (emphasis ours)

Meeks’ involvement with another nonprofit, the so-called Inter-American Economic Council, drew headlines in late 2009. The nonprofit was funded almost entirely by billionaire Allen Stanford, who was charged last year with operating a “massive Ponzi scheme” involving about $8 billion in certificates of deposit.

Sometimes accompanied by his wife, Meeks took six trips to Caribbean destinations such as Antigua and St. Lucia, courtesy of Stanford’s nonprofit.

The Miami Herald reported that former Stanford employees alleged that in 2006, Stanford asked Meeks to retaliate against a renegade Stanford executive named Gonzalo Tirado in Venezuela who was attempting to blow the whistle on Stanford fraud.

Allegedly, Stanford asked Meeks to call Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez. Stanford wanted Chavez to go after the whistleblower, who was indicted a year later. Meeks had not comment on the Miami Herald story and has been mum since.