HIV/AIDS Nonprofit's Dealings Scrutinized
December 28, 2007
MOVERS Inc., a local nonprofit HIV/AIDS service agency that houses poor HIV/AIDS patients, has come under scrutiny recently. The organization has provided medical care, counseling, and housing to area patients over the past 18 years. But according to a Miami Herald investigation, MOVERS has squandered hundreds of thousands of tax dollars on failed projects and questionable billings while stranding some of the people it was meant to serve. Recently, MOVERS sold an HIV/AIDS apartment complex for a $1.3 million profit, although federal law says the apartments must be devoted to HIV/AIDS housing for at least another four years.
Three years ago, MOVERS pledged to get back on track with a new management team and board after government auditors discovered more than $500,000 in dubious cash withdrawals and entertainment expenses paid for with public funds.
A review of records shows MOVERS cashed rent payments for dead and missing residents of one of its complexes for more than a year. The city of Miami demanded more than $36,000 in repayment. There have also been charges that MOVERS altered medical records so residents could qualify for housing subsidies.
In a written response to questions from the Miami Herald, MOVERS executive director Connie West attributed recent problems to a "strained relationship" with city officials. West said the apartments were sold because they were too costly to run and that MOVERS used the profits to pay for more medical and social services for HIV/AIDS patients, after paying off loans.
In 2004, the US Department of Health and Human Services found MOVERS had routinely failed to document medical services billed to Miami-Dade County, and a county audit cited the agency for mismanagement.
The Miami-Dade state attorney's office has demanded eight boxes of records from the city of Miami on the Sugar Hill complex, which was sold, and other apartments. Prosecutors would not discuss the nature of their probe.
12.22.2007; Scott Hiaasen