Wednesday 30 September 2020

Ohio Man Charged With Fraud After Allegedly Spending More Than $200,000 in BLM Donations on Luxury Items


Illustration for article titled Ohio Man Charged With Fraud After Allegedly Spending More Than $200,000 in BLM Donations on Luxury Items
Screenshot: 13 WMAZ

By now, the entire world has heard of a little thing called the Black Lives Matter movement, which exploded after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless others this year. Since Floyd’s death in May, the momentum of the movement against systemic racism in policing has been nonstop. But where most people see an opportunity to force change and start a lasting national and worldwide conversation on institutional racism, one man appears to have seen an opportunity for something else: fraud. Now, that man, who reportedly founded a group called Black Lives Matter of Greater Atlanta, is facing federal charges after he allegedly spent donation money on nice clothes, luxury hotels and a new house. Meanwhile, the real Atlanta Black Lives Matter is standing up to say, “Nah, we don’t know him.”

13 WMAZ reports that 32-year-old Tyree Conyers-Page, who goes by the name of Sir Maejor Page, has been charged with one count of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering, according to a criminal complaint filed in the U.S. Northern District of Ohio.

From WMAZ:

The charges, according to the complaint, stem from fraudulent use of donations received between May and Sept. 24, 2020. According to the complaint, back in April 2019, a witness tipped off the FBI that Conyers-Page may have been using the Black Lives Matter of Greater Atlanta (BLMGA) non-profit organization to make money.

More than a year later in June 2020, that same witness went back to the FBI showing that the BLMGA organization Conyers-Page founded - a splinter group that was never recognized as a representative of the official Atlanta Black Lives Matter organization - was receiving donations from it’s official Facebook page. The page, which was registered with the social media company as a non-profit, was cleared to receive donations because of that, even though Conyers-Page’s organization had lost its tax-exempt status in 2019.

According to the complaint, the Facebook page was linked to a bank account named “Black Lives Matter of Greater Atlanta, Inc.” that was opened in April 2018, and Page was the only signatory on the account. From April 2018 until May 2020, the complaint said the BLMGA bank account’s balance “ebbed and flowed,” however, it never had a balance that exceeded $5,000. The beginning balance of the account as of May 2020 was negative $12.42.

Then, a month later in June, the complaint said the BLMGA Facebook page received more than $36,000 in donations. The month after, in July, it received another roughly $371,000. In August, it received another nearly $60,000 - all of which was transferred to from the Facebook page to the account listed for Page.

 So what did Conyers-Page spend all of that money on? Water and snacks for protesters? Bail money for arrested protesters? Organization efforts? Black people suffering economic losses due to the pandemic? According to the charges filed against him, the answer is none of the above. Instead, Conyers-Page must have thought BLM stood for “Ballin’ Like a Muhfucka,” because a debit card linked to the BLMGA bank account indicates that more than $200,000 in donation money was spent on dining out, entertainment, nice clothing, furniture, luxury hotels, a home security system and a more than $112,000 house in Toledo, Ohio, where he actually lives.

According to WTOL, the house in Toledo belongs to an organization led by Conyers-Page called Hi Frequency. Ron Goolsby, a member of the organization and friend of Conyers-Page said the organization bought the house to shelter victims of domestic violence, though he admitted that Conyers-Page sometimes stayed there. In fact, Goolsby told the Toledo Blade that he expects charges to be dropped against Conyers-Page saying, “This is all going to be cleared up, for sure.”

But there’s a lot more that Conyers-Page has to answer for than a house purchased under dubious circumstances. According to the New York Times, Conyers-Page posted photos on social media that showed him wearing tailored suits with cufflinks and ties that he bragged had cost $150. He also boasted about a luxury hotel room he was staying in.

“My room way up at the top,” he posted. “At the top top.”

All the while, Conyers-Page was telling BLMGA’s followers that the money was going to the cause.

From the Times:

The Greater Atlanta organization maintained an active presence on Facebook, sought donations through GoFundMe, and cheered on the protesters. “We’ve been blown away by the millions that are coming together to demand justice — for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and countless others who’ve had their lives taken,” said one of its posts in August.

Mr. Page said in private messages that the donations it received were being used to finance the group’s activism, federal investigators said. None of the money was “used for personal items,” Mr. Page wrote in one of the messages. “All movement related.”

Black Lives Matter Atlanta—a completely different organization that actually is what it says it is—was quick to let it be known that it has nothing to do with the Conyers-Page and his organization.

“This page is not affiliated with any national brand and we are not a non-profit,” BLMA posted to its Facebook page Monday, WSB-TV reports. “This page is not affiliated with the page mentioned in the article below. This page will never seek donations. This is a grassroots collective movement to fight for justice for the disenfranchised, and victims of police brutality.”

The national Black Lives Matter organization also released the following statement to WSB-TV:

“The recent and past behavior of Tyree Conyers-Page, also known as Sir Maejor Page, has continued to compromise the integrity of the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, supporters and allies. Our stance remains that Mr. Page is not affiliated with Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation.”

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