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Crypto boss who gave $1.8M to San Francisco crime nonprofit wants audit of ‘discrepancies’

Chris Larsen, chairman of Ripple Labs, poses in a blue blazer at a Downtown location.
Ripple Chairman Chris Larsen called for an investigation into how SF SAFE spent as much as $1 million of the $1.8 million that he gave the nonprofit to expand the use of security cameras.

An anti-crime nonprofit caught improperly billing San Francisco police for luxury gift boxes, limo rides and valet parking is now facing tough questions about how it spent as much as $1 million in grant funding from a crypto billionaire.

San Francisco SAFE, the longtime nonprofit partner of the San Francisco Police Department, was the subject of a scathing report released by the Controller's Office last week that found it wrongly charged police for at least $79,000 in expenses—including a nearly $15,000 staff trip to Lake Tahoe. 

The Standard has since learned that Chris Larsen, the co-founder of Ripple and a local philanthropist, has separately called for an investigation into how SF SAFE spent up to $1 million of the $1.8 million that he gave the nonprofit to expand the use of security cameras in the city.

At the center of the dispute is an estimated $600,000 to $1 million that the nonprofit allegedly owes a security company, Applied Video Solutions, for work that it performed installing and maintaining surveillance cameras over the past three years, according to the company.

"Unfortunately, we recently found discrepancies regarding the designated outcomes of previous funds provided, and I've asked my donor-advised fund to launch an independent audit and investigation," Larsen told The Standard.

Larsen gave SF SAFE $1.8 million through a charity, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, according to his spokesperson, Alex Tourk. Tourk said less than $1 million of the funding was “contracted as intended, with numerous unpaid invoices.”

“Discrepancies were identified when invoices for existing projects were not being paid and then new funding requests represented as being for camera project expansion came in that seemed to duplicate previous requests of work reported as already being completed,” Tourk said.

Larsen declined a final grant request from SF SAFE and stopped doing business with the nonprofit last March, Tourk said.

The investigation he called for is ongoing, Larsen said.

Dmitri Shimolin, CEO and co-founder of Applied Video Solutions, said his firm was hired by SF SAFE to install and maintain security cameras on private property in undisclosed locations around San Francisco. Shimolin said that these cameras capture footage that can be accessed after the fact.

He said his firm continued to provide services to SF SAFE despite being owed an estimated six-figure sum because the work is so important.

“The reason to do this in the first place is to take care of the city and keep it safe,” Shimolin told The Standard. “We need to continue doing the work because these are important public safety measures.”

An attorney for SF SAFE, Dylan Hackett, said that the nonprofit is investigating the issues to restore trust with the community.

“SF SAFE is doing their due diligence to make sure that this type of situation does not happen again,” Hackett said. “We are actively looking into all of the allegations which are being presented to us.”

Hackett said that he discussed the issue with the nonprofit’s executive director, Kyra Worthy.

“She said that she did not misappropriate any funds whatsoever,” Hackett said.

Applied Video Solutions is not the only company that SF SAFE may owe money to.

Larsen’s spokesperson, Tourk, also represented SF SAFE before canceling his contract with the nonprofit last summer. He said the nonprofit owes his firm, Ground Floor Public Affairs, $80,000.

"Ground Floor is deeply dismayed by the recent discrepancies discovered at the organization,” Tourk said. “Although we remain proud of our public affairs advice provided in the past for the half-century-old trusted public safety community platform, our firm terminated its agreement with SF SAFE in the summer of 2023 due to contractual delinquency.”

The report by the Controller’s Office last week sullied the longtime financial ties between the SFPD and SF SAFE, which launched in 1976 and hosts meetings that bring the community together with police. The report found that the department reimbursed SF SAFE for more than $5.3 million in expenses between July 2018 and last March, largely without checking for receipts.

A closer look by the Controller’s Office at $910,000 of the reimbursements for “crime prevention education services” revealed that 9% of it was used in ways it should not have been, including for the curated gift boxes handed out at community policing events and for valet parking at the Battery, a private San Francisco club. The reimbursements also covered the costs of ride-shares for Worthy, as well as the costs of parking expenses listed under her name.

Based on that small sample, the report projected that the total amount of improperly reimbursed expenses over the years not scrutinized by the Controller’s Office was “likely significantly higher.”

Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who said he has been raising concerns about misspending by SF SAFE for years, plans to call for a hearing Tuesday to seek answers from both San Francisco police and the nonprofit.

“I want to hear what their systemic, financial failures are and how they are going to correct them,” Peskin said.

Michael Barba can be reached at mbarba@sfstandard.com