Former director of BIPOC-focused Portland charity sentenced to federal prison for stealing over $320k in public funds

The founder and former director of a Portland-based charity has been sentenced to 15 months in federal prison after being found guilty of stealing more than $321,000 in Covid relief money.
 

In addition to time behind bars, 62-year-old Theodore Johnson of the now-defunct Ten Penny International Housing Foundation was also ordered to pay back the full amount to the US Small Business Administration and Oregon Department of Administrative Services.

According to the Department of Justice, Johnson founded Ten Penny in 2017 and served as its director of operations. In 2021, the United States government began rolling out its Covid relief plan, and Johnson “saw an opportunity to fraudulently obtain government funds on Ten Penny‚Äôs behalf.”

He, alongside countless other small business owners, quickly applied for a Paycheck Protection Program loan, claiming to have 16 employees averaging $57,000 apiece. In reality, he only employed six people.

Johnson submitted a series of forged documents purporting to be verified by the Internal Revenue Service, and was soon granted a loan of over $143,000 by Northeast Bank.

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He repeated the procedure again months later, this time claiming to employ 16 people at $50,000 apiece. He was granted over $130,000 by the Central Willamette Credit Union.

He received an additional $34,975 via fraudulent Oregon Cares Fund applications.

The Ten Penny Foundation was a “nonpartisan, nonprofit organization committed to assisting underserved communities and those in need,” and boasted on its website about “providing food Boxes, supplies, meals and services” to “help bipoc and historically underserved communities.”

Johnson was charged with one count of bank fraud in October 2022, and pleaded guilty two months later. 

According to a report conducted by the Inspector General, more than 70,000 loans totaling over $4.6 billion have been flagged as potentially fraudulent out of the nearly $800 billion in potentially forgivable PPP loans that the US government issued in response to the Covid pandemic.

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