Refugee Charity Founder Arrested: Boulder Man Charged With Fraud

Andrew Baron, CEO of Humanwire, allegedly pocketed more than $130,000 in donations meant for Syrian refugee families, prosecutors say.

 

BOULDER, CO -- Boulder police arrested the founder of a Syrian refugee-relief charity Thursday on charges of fraud and theft of more than $100,000 from the organization. Andrew Baron, 47, of Boulder, founded Humanwire, an online funding charity that claimed to charge no administrative overhead and to deliver pledged aid directly to refugees in need in Turkey, Greece and Lebanon. Baron allegedly intermingled charity funds with his own bank accounts and spent $130,000 of donated funds on personal expenses, prosecutors said.

A former web entrepreneur, Baron started the charity in 2016 as a GoFundMe-style helping agency that could funnel donations to specific refugee families in need. The Humanwire website posted a claim that none of the donations were to be used for overhead:

"Yes, Humanwire takes 0% In exchange for offering this platform, seeking and processing applications, distributing contributions, reporting and fulfilling rewards Humanwire takes 0% from the money you raise for a campaign. We rely 100 % on additional, optional donations from your contributors. THANK YOU. Let's do this!"

A local Boulder woman contacted Boulder police in August about possible fraud. Anna Segur, who worked with Humanwire since 2016 helping to find housing for Syrian refugee families in Greece, contacted police when money dried up that was meant to house families who had been moved from camps to short-term apartments.

"In February 2017, Anna started noticing that there were problems with the funding," the affidavit alleged. "There was no money in the account, or the ATM machines would say the daily withdraw limit had been reached. This did not make any sense to Anna because all the money she was attempting to take out had already been donated for specific families."

Anna Segur said she borrowed $4,700 from her parents in August to fund the Tent to Home program and pay rent for the Greek refugees herself because they faced eviction or loss of food. Segur presented spreadsheets to the Boulder police's Community Protective Division showing that donations to the families' temporary housing accounts were completely funded, but Baron had refused to release the money. Donations included a $45,000 gift from a Denver donor, Gordon Clark, earmarked for the Tent to Home project.

In a July email, Baron admitted to employees that he intermingled Humanwire funds with his own accounts:

"I transfer money to my personal account all the time ... for the sake of convenience so we can send ATM cards around. I use my personal card to withdraw cash all the time to take to Safeway to WU and it's a total sloppy mess that I [k]now people would frown on, but I felt it was a quick and dirty way to get it done and build the company without waiting year[s] to get grants, etc..."

This past summer, Baron changed the terms of service on the website, the affidavit said. "[Baron] stated that this would allow Humanwire to use funds for any purpose. This Terms of Service page was buried within the website," prosecutors said. "There was specific mention that this included using 100% of donated funds for its own operating funds."

After an investigation in the Denver Post, Baron threatened to sue Segur and her Tent to Home fellow-volunteer Kayra Martinez and accused them in a video of stealing money from the organization. According to the affidavit, employees said they were not paid and that Baron stopped coming into the office, was seen crying and told employees his wife had left him. Employees resigned, and Baron allegedly tried to make one employee, Mona Ayoub, sign a document saying she would not cooperate with law enforcement unless she was legally compelled to do so. She resigned and helped police follow the money trail of Baron's accounting, the affidavit said.

Baron was taken into custody and held in the Boulder Co. jail on $10,000 bail. If released, he must surrender his passport and is barred from making contact with with Segur or Ayoub.

Read Baron's arrest warrant below:

Affidavit for Arrest Warrant Andrew Baron by JeanLotus on Scribd

 

Article From:- https://patch.com

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