Leader of closed nonprofit pleads guilty to fraud charges


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The politically connected executive of a now-defunct nonprofit pleaded guilty Thursday to multiple federal fraud charges and could face decades in prison.

Bill Davis, 65, admitted that he used funds from Community Action of Minneapolis to pay for a vehicle in his name and personal expenses — including trips to the Bahamas and Puerto Rico. He also admitted directing the organization to pay his son a consultant’s fee for work he wasn’t doing.

Without a plea agreement from the government, he pleaded guilty to all 16 counts against him — including mail fraud, wire fraud, theft from a program receiving federal funds and conspiracy to commit such theft.

His attorney, Susan Gaertner, said Davis decided to take responsibility for his mistakes and did so with a “heavy heart.”

“He is very sorry for the conduct that you heard about in the courtroom today,” she said.

Davis was allowed to remain free pending sentencing. A date for that hasn’t been set.

U.S. Attorney Andy Luger called the guilty plea a “just result” and said in a statement that instead of improving people’s lives, Davis “stole from those in need to line his own pockets.”

Davis spent 24 years as chief executive of Community Action of Minneapolis, which provided utility assistance and other social services to low-income people. He and his son, Jordan, were indicted last year for allegedly siphoning at least $250,000 from the organization for personal use.

Davis also admitted directing the group to pay his son a consultant’s fee for work he didn’t do, saying that as chief executive he thought that “no one would challenge me.”

Jordan Davis, a Minneapolis police officer, has pleaded not guilty to six counts, including conspiracy to commit theft. His trial is scheduled to start next week.

As Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Svendsen and U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz pressed Bill Davis for details about the alleged conspiracy between father and son, the elder Davis said: “To say we sat down and developed a structure for him to get paid, that didn’t happen.”

When Gaertner was asked if Bill Davis pleaded guilty to help his son, she said: “I’m sure, like any parent, the effect your decisions have on your loved ones is always going to be part of the equation.”

Some Democratic lawmakers — including U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and state Sen. Jeffrey Hayden — were among Community Action of Minneapolis’ board members. They have denied knowledge of any wrongdoing, and Davis admitted he didn’t seek the board’s permission for the personal expenditures.

Davis also has a longstanding association with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, whose administration conducted audits of the nonprofit that exposed questionable spending of taxpayer money.

___

Follow Amy Forliti on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/amyforliti . More of her work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/amy-forliti