Despite a criminal past that includes convictions for forgery, theft and fraud, David Johnson became a key participant in the city of Indianapolis’s effort to redevelop vacant homes in some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
His organization, Indiana Minority AIDS Coalition, bought 37 properties for as little as $1,000 each through the city’s land bank program, which is intended to put abandoned properties into the hands of responsible owners.
Now, Johnson is one of five men facing a federal indictment for participating in an alleged fraud and kickback scheme involving some of those properties.
Johnson, 47, is accused of providing kickbacks to the city’s land bank manager, Reggie Walton, as part of a money-making plot under which his Minority AIDS Coalition and another group took advantage of rules favoring nonprofits to buy properties from the city on the cheap, then quickly sell them to for-profit investors.
Those accusations, coupled with Johnson’s long white-collar crime history, raise new questions about how the city vets those with whom it does business.Ballard's spokesman, Marc Lotter, claims the administration does a thorough job of vetting nonprofit organizations that do business with the city, such as checking to see if it is registered with the IRS, has a stated mission, has been in business for at least a year, is financially stable and current in the payment of its taxes. That's a pretty low threshold. I tried to find tax returns and other information about the organization online. IMAC's website is devoid of any real information and GuideStar, an online service that provides transparency for nonprofit organizations, had little information about the organization.
Cook's report indicates that he attempted unsuccessfully to contact members of the board of directors for IMAC. His report doesn't name any of the board members. According to the latest reported information available on GuideStar, the nonprofit has a five-member board that included Paul Bateman, the former Indianapolis City-County Councilor who recently pleaded guilty to conspiring with others to defraud a local physician out of nearly $2 million. Other members listed include: Dr. Elaine Walters; Dr. Ruth Rogers-Lambert; Terri Ford; and Ashley Barker. It lists annual contributions of $4.6 million but no information detailing its expenditures.
IMAC's website lists a number of businesses, governmental agencies and organizations it counts as partners, in addition to the City of Indianapolis, including: Indiana Department of Health; Marion Co. Department of Health; Eastern Star Church; RTV6 News; Chase Bank; Skyline Club; 100 Black Men; National Minority AIDS Coalition; Hilton Hotel; and Nordstrom Cares.