How badly did hip-hop celeb/liar Wyclef Jean fuck up his charity efforts in Haiti? So badly that the New York Times published a lengthy A-1 story that probably only skims the surface of his mismanaged, dysfunctional charity, Yéle. Wyclef, who was born in Haiti, founded Yéle in 2004, but it only had $37,000 in assets until tragedy struck in the form of a massive earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010. After that, Wyclef raised millions of dollars — $1 million in 24 hours alone after he urged his Twitter followers to text donations, he once said — which he then spent on chauffeuring celebrities, giving orphanages goods they said they didn't really need, and himself. Here's an (incomplete) summary of the mess he's managed to make in an already ravaged country:
Wyclef spent hundreds and thousands of dollars on himself and other celebs:
The forensic audit examined $3 million of the charity's 2005 to 2009 expenses and found $256,580 in illegitimate benefits to Mr. Jean and other Yéle board and staff members as well as improper or potentially improper transactions. These included $24,000 for Mr. Jean's chauffeur services and $30,763 for a private jet that transported Lindsay Lohan from New Jersey to a benefit in Chicago that raised only $66,000.
The audit considered it appropriate, though, for the charity to pay Mr. Jean $100,000 to perform at a Yéle fund-raiser in Monaco because that was his market rate. It also found it acceptable for Yéle to spend $125,114 on travel and other matters related to a "60 Minutes" report on "Wyclef's mission to help the people of Haiti and his personal success story" because it appeared to have heightened awareness of Yéle. It was deemed legitimate to have spent $57,927 on private jets to fly Matt Damon and others to Haiti because they gave "substantial contributions" afterward.
When Wyclef wasn't spending money directly on himself, it often went to his charity, not to actual on-the-ground work:
Even as Yéle is besieged by angry creditors, an examination of the charity indicates that millions in donations for earthquake victims went to its own offices, salaries, consultants' fees and travel, to Mr. Jean's brother-in-law for projects never realized, to materials for temporary houses never built and to accountants dealing with its legal troubles.
On the ground in Haiti, little lasting trace of Yéle's presence can be discerned. The walled country estate leased for its headquarters, on which the charity lavished $600,000, is deserted. Yéle's street cleaning crews have been disbanded. The Yéle-branded tents and tarps have mostly disintegrated; one camp leader said they had not seen Yéle, which is based in New York, since Mr. Jean was disqualified as a presidential candidate because he lives in Saddle River, N.J., not Haiti.
In 2010, Yéle spent $9 million and half went to travel, to salaries and consultants' fees and to expenses related to their offices and warehouse. In contrast, another celebrity charity, Sean Penn's J/P Haitian Relief Organization, spent $13 million with only 10 percent going to those costs.
Though Mr. Penn's group spent $43,000 on office-related expenses, Yéle spent $1.4 million, including $375,000 for "landscaping" and $37,000 for rent to Mr. Jean's Manhattan recording studio. Yéle spent $470,440 on its own food and beverages.
What about the orphanages?
"If I had depended on Yéle," said Diaoly Estimé, whose orphanage features a wall painting of Mr. Jean and his wife, "these kids would all be dead by now."
Didn't he do anything for Haitians? Only in a half-assed and/or shady way:
Some of Yéle's programming money went to projects that never came to fruition: temporary homes for which it prepaid $93,000; a medical center to have been housed in geodesic domes for which it paid $146,000; the revitalization of a plaza in the Cité Soleil slum, where supposed improvements that cost $230,000 are nowhere to be seen.
There were questionable contracts, too: Mr. Jean's brother-in-law, Eric Warnel Pierre, collected about $630,000 for three projects including the medical center and the plaza - what Yéle's tax forms called "the rebuilding of Haiti." Mr. Pierre did not respond to messages left for him.
And a Miami company called Amisphere Farm Labor, incorporated in 2008 and dissolved in 2009, received $1 million in 2010 to provide hot meals to displaced Haitians. Yet a Haitian caterer has sued Yéle for $430,000 in nonpayment for these very same meals, thus far succeeding only in getting the charity's Haitian bank account frozen.
And, now, he's refusing to clean up his mess:
... Mr. Jean declined to accept a settlement proposed by the attorney general covering the charity's pre-earthquake activities, and he hired Avi Schick, a lawyer who had been a member of Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman's transition team.
The settlement would have required Mr. Jean and the two other Yéle founders to pay $600,000 in restitution "to remedy the waste of the foundation's assets." It also would have required Yéle to pay for a forensic audit of its post-disaster expenses, as it had done for its pre-earthquake finances, and to start "winding down its affairs."
Read the Times piece for more.