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Cigars, booze and motorcycles: Nonprofit accused of swindling city in $100K scheme

City Attorney David Chiu speaking in front of a California flag.
City Attorney David Chiu speaks at a press conference in San Francisco City Hall on Aug. 4, 2022. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

A joint investigation by the San Francisco City Attorney and Controller's Offices has revealed that a nonprofit allegedly defrauded the city in a scheme that involved submitting false invoices, double billing and seeking reimbursements for items like alcohol, cigars and motorcycle rentals amounting to at least $100,000.

The nonprofit J&J Community Resource Center, which provides services for low-income families and youth and is overseen by Drew Jenkins, will be prevented from bidding on and receiving future grants from the city, according to City Attorney David Chiu. The city has also sanctioned the nonprofit's Chief Financial Officer Susan Murphy.

“Drew Jenkins carried out an egregious and intentional scheme to defraud the City and its taxpayers,” said Chiu in a statement on Tuesday morning. “Let this be a warning to all bad actors seeking to take advantage of our public resources. We will find out about your misdeeds, cut off your funding, and hold you accountable. I appreciate the partnership of the Controller’s Office on these matters, and the many City and nonprofit employees who spoke up about the wrongdoing they were seeing.”

The image shows part of a reservation document for Rolling Freedom Motorcycles with pickup and dropoff dates, personal details, location info, and a total cost of $3,335.35.
A receipt showing $3,335.35 worth of charges submitted by Drew Jenkins from Rolling Freedom's Motorcycles in Lake Tahoe. | Source: Courtesy San Francisco City Attorney's Office

Jenkins' nonprofit was established by him and his late mother in 2018, according to the city. Investigators say the scheme began in 2021 and that the organization received grants as either a sole grantee or subcontractor from four different departments: the Human Rights Commission, the Department of Public Health, the Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development and the Office of Economic Workforce Development.

Attempts to reach Jenkins were not immediately successful.

The investigation by the city reveals a web of alleged wrongdoing by Jenkins in his role as a former employee of Mercy Housing, a San Francisco-based affordable housing nonprofit, and Jenkins' colleague Murphy, who used to work at the nonprofit Family and Child Empowerment Services San Francisco (FACES SF), which provides access to child care.

In one instance, investigators say Jenkins submitted fake invoices to FACES SF under a Department of Public Health Covid grant, and Murphy subsequently approved them. The city attorney says Jenkins' organization unlawfully received $81,111 through the health department's grant.

In another case, Jenkins reportedly submitted reimbursement for expenses that were specifically excluded as part of a grant through the Human Rights Commission. Investigators say Jenkins sought to get paid back for a bottle of bourbon and cigars from an Atlanta liquor store during a college tour trip. The reimbursements also included motorcycle rentals in Lake Tahoe.

Chiu's action against the nonprofit is an official debarment, which permits the city to block organizations from applying for or receiving grants for five years under circumstances of "willful misconduct." The city attorney has also submitted an order of suspension, which blocks the nonprofit from funding—an action that will be in place until the debarment is resolved.

“Contractors who willfully disregard regulations are a blight on public service and should not have the same opportunities as those who abide by the rules of fair conduct,” said City Controller Ben Rosenfield in a statement. “For every individual trying to rig the system, there are many more hardworking people doing good work—whose willingness to call out bad actors has been both invaluable, and an indication of government working.”

The city's actions on Tuesday follow a slew of scandals involving San Francisco nonprofits.

On Friday, the San Francisco Police Department informed the Board of Supervisors that it was canceling a grant for SF SAFE, a nonprofit that recently closed and is under investigation by the District Attorney's Office after it allegedly misspent $79,000 from the police department and up to $1 million from tech executive Chris Larsen.