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Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2009 7:05 a.m.

Washington Post investigation into AIDS spending prompts city response

After a damning investigative series published this week by The Washington Post, the city announced an investigation of their own into the alleged abuse and fraud committed by HIV/AIDS programs charged with providing and caring for the city’s sick.

The Post’s 10-month long investigation, titled “Wasting Away: The Squandering of D.C.’s AIDS Dollars,” found that “one in three of D.C.’s AIDS dollars earmarked for small groups went to organizations marked by financial problems and questionable services.” The total amount given to nonprofits and organizations with suspect records totaled more than $25 million from 2004 to 2008.

D.C. is plagued by one of the worst rates of HIV/AIDS in the U.S., and at least 3 percent of residents are infected, according to recent estimates.

A nonprofit targeted by The Washington Post, Miracle Hands, remains “one of the most heavily funded organizations in the city” despite being the subject of complaints from city monitors, former clients, and outside AIDS organizations. The Post investigation found Miracle Hands was awarded $4.5 million over five years despite “a lack of services and supplies, missing records and questionable expenses.”

In a news conference, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty called the fraud and abuse of AIDS dollars “inexcusably wrong.”

D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles said the city’s investigation would focus on nonprofits currently receiving D.C. dollars, which includes Miracle Hands. Nickles said his office is considering trying “to recoup money from some groups and could potentially pursue criminal charges,” according to The Post.

One of the smaller groups questioned, the Ummah Endowment Fund, was once located near campus at 1015 18th Street, NW.

The Ummah Endowment Fund recieved $150,000, according to The Post. But “the city cannot produce a single document about the grants” and “the group promised to hold lavish fundraisers to assist other AIDS groups, but the beneficiaries say they received little money.” The Ummah Endowment Fund is no longer active.

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