- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
Media Contact for Former Head of Homeless Shelter Pleads Guilty, Sentenced to Jail for Stealing From the Non-profit Organization
The former executive director of Casa Nueva Vida (CNV), a now-closed publicly funded non-profit homeless shelter that had locations in Boston and Lawrence, has pleaded guilty and been sentenced to jail in connection with stealing nearly $1.5 million from the organization and lying under oath to conceal his self-dealing, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
Manuel Duran, age 70, of West Roxbury, the former executive director and board president of CNV, pleaded guilty today in Suffolk Superior Court to the charges of Perjury (4 counts), Larceny over $1,200 (3 counts), and Making False Entries in Corporate Books (2 counts). Following the plea, Judge Michael Doolin sentenced Duran to one year in the House of Correction followed by four years of probation, with the conditions that he complete 250 hours of community service and can no longer work as a fiduciary or in transitional housing. The AG’s Office previously recommended a sentence of four to six years in state prison, with six years of concurrent probation.
Duran was also ordered to pay restitution with the amount to be determined at a hearing at a later date in December.
“Manuel Duran’s schemes and blatant abuse of power led to the destruction of a valuable charitable organization and basic services for our state’s most vulnerable residents,” said AG Healey. “We are pleased to deliver accountability in this case.”
The criminal charges are the result of a joint investigation by the AG’s Office and the Office of the Inspector General, with assistance from Massachusetts State Police assigned to the AG’s Office. The Inspector General’s Office initiated an investigation following an anonymous tip. Duran was indicted on the charges in September 2021.
“A short, anonymous email to our fraud hotline sparked our investigation, which uncovered Duran’s theft of $1.5 million – funds intended to help some of the most vulnerable people in our community,” said Acting Inspector General Natalie Monroe. “Our office, working with the Attorney General’s Office, has ensured that Duran is held accountable for his actions.”
CNV, headquartered in Jamaica Plain, housed over 150 primarily Spanish-speaking families at 14 locations in Boston and Lawrence. As CNV’s Executive Director, Duran essentially had complete control of CNV’s $7 million budget, directed procurement and site selections, and managed facility maintenance and staffing across all locations. As of July 1, 2022, CNV’s shelter service programs have become a division of Heading Home, one of the largest emergency housing and shelter providers in the Boston area.
The joint investigation revealed that Duran used his power to lease four of his privately owned properties and one owned by a relative to CNV as shelter locations, hiding his interests in the transactions through use of limited liability companies. On behalf of CNV, Duran signed four annual disclosure forms under oath, attesting falsely that the organization, among other things, was not a party to any transaction in which any of its officers, directors, or trustees had a material financial interest. The forms were submitted to the AG’s Non-Profit Organizations and Public Charities Division.
The investigation further revealed three different fraudulent financial schemes that Duran used to steal funds from CNV.
From 2014 to 2021, Duran skimmed rent money paid by CNV for a shelter site in Lawrence by using a shell company he set up as a middleman. Duran made inflated rent payments from CNV to the shell company, and had it pay less than half of that amount to the owners of the property, who were unaware of the scheme. In this way, Duran siphoned off more than $1.1 million for his personal use.
The joint investigation also revealed that between 2012 and 2020, Duran created fraudulent invoices and contracts to obtain checks made out to three different vendors for work they never performed. The named vendors would cash the checks with Duran present, and provide the cash directly to him. Duran stole $242,012 from CNV in these fraudulent vendor payments for purported services including renovations, lead abatement, and asbestos abatement.
The joint investigation also found that between 2014 and 2019, Duran stole approximately $140,831 from CNV by depositing directly into his own business bank account paychecks issued to a seasonal maintenance employee for CNV who was in Puerto Rico when the paychecks were issued.
In a separate civil matter, the AG’s Office sued Duran in September 2021 for abusing his position to improperly funnel state money to himself, all while falsely certifying compliance with state regulations designed to detect such improper self-dealing. The lawsuit alleged Duran established shell companies to purchase properties he then leased to CNV at above-market rates, allowed him to funnel more than $2 million in state funds to himself. In January, the AG’s Office reached a civil settlement with Duran requiring him to pay $6 million and permanently banning him from accepting a position as a fiduciary at a public charity; working on or with any business connected to the state or a state entity or any business that receives money from the state; and from forming a separate entity operating under a different name in order to violate the settlement.
The criminal case against Duran was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Mindy Klenoff, of AG Healey’s White Collar and Public Integrity Division, and Victim Witness Advocate Lia Panetta, with assistance from Massachusetts State Police assigned to the AG’s Office, and Senior Investigators Jack Meyers and Will Bradford from OIG.