WHERE'S THE MONEY
OVER THE LAST 19 YEARS THE RICKIA ISACC FOUNDATION RAISED HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS, INCLUDING IN THE LAST 3 YEARS, TENS OF THOUSANDS FROM THE CITY OF MIAMI, YET THE FOUNDATION REFUSES TO PROVIDE ANY ACCOUNTING OF HOW MUCH THEY RAISED OR HOW THAT MONEY WAS ACTUALLY SPENT
At the end of the day, the problem with charities, especially ones that claim to work with school children - beside the possibility that they might be run by an accused child molestor - is that, sometimes the money doesn't go where it should have.
Obviously the first problem - having an accused child molester involved in a program that provides access to public schools and children is self evident, or at least you would think so - but for some reason even though the child molestation accusations about Jerome Starling were not a secret in many parts of the Black community - even before I wrote my first story in January of 2015 - no one in a position of authority ever seemed to express any concern about the way a handful of corrupt and ethically challenged political and religious leaders in the Black community along with the Miami Police Department continued to support him.
Not that there wasn't talk. There was plenty of talk, but none of it came from the people who continued to pose for photos with Starling, like this 2015 photo of Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff's wife Teresa - then running to replace him on the City Commission - and School Board member Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall - a piece of work in her own right - while Sarnoff, Chief of Police Llanes, and several other top cops stood behind them like extras in a cheap TV cop reality show.
JANUARY 2, 2017
She also did the same thing in 2013, and reported that her net worth had slightly declined to $49,450.
Jerome Starling, Miami City Commissioner Francis Suarez, retired Assistant Chief of Police for the City of Miami Jorge Lopez, Orlando Aguilera, a former Hialeah Chief of Police who now works at the Miami Police Department thanks to his pal Jorge Gomez, and Ray Blanco who is the GM at Lexus of North Miami. The photo was taken at the October 30, 2016, annual banquet at the Hyatt Downtown Hotel
Whether you have kids or not, the below photo should trouble you.
For many, perception is reality and the very idea that a Chief of Police, a School Board member and a State Senator would happily, with big grins on their faces, pose with an accused child molester, especially one that the Chief's own detectives felt comfortable in stating that they believed there was "probable cause" to believe he committed the acts he was accused of is actually quite astounding, even for Miami.
THE RICKIA ISACC FOUNDATION
In 1997, Starling formed the foundation in memory of his 5 year old niece who had been killed by a random bullet fired after a Martin Luther King parade in Liberty City. The stated purpose of the foundation was to raise "money for programs, equipment, and the education of the dangers of gun-violence throughout Miami-Dade County."
The foundation would go on to sponsor semi-annual gun buybacks in the City of Miami, which succeeded over the years in removing hundreds of pistols and rifles from the community, and for that they deserve credit, although no where near as much as Starling would claim.
The main source of funding for these endeavors, or so it was claimed in their annual fundraising letter, was a banquet held every October where tables went for $2500, $5000 and $10,000.
None of the snippy comments seemed to affect Starling's continued access to police headquarters where he was even allowed to hang out in Assistant Chief Gomez's Office, and to be driven around town and taken to lunch by Gomez and other high ranking officers, including now Assistant Chief Dennis "Lexus" Jackson.
The department, instead of choosing to find other partners that they could join with in conducting the gun buyback program like the MDPD who partners with reputable companies such as Target, who provide the gift cards for the people turning guns in, continued to rely on Starling and the Rickia Isaac Foundation.
Among Starling's most avid supporters was none other than Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who in 2013 steered Resolution 13-00700 through the City Commission authorizing a "contribution" of $25,000 for an Education Seminar that was sponsored by, and would come from the Miami Police Department's Law Enforcement Trust Fund.
This money given to the foundation was in addition to the annual donations that were given to buy tables at the banquet for the years 2013 - 2016, by the Mayor, the SEOPW and OMNI CRA - which Sarnoff was the Chairman of - Commissioner Willie Gort, who combined gabe Starling contributions totaling $56,000.
In addition, the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) gave the foundation $5000 in donations, and the OMNI CRA gave them another $2500 to pay for the gift cards given away at the December 17th Gun Buyback.
This makes a grand total of $63,500 in City of Miami taxpayer dollars given to this foundation since 2013.
THE DDA & THE RICIKA ISACC FOUNDATION
Starting with their 2000 corporate filing with the Florida Secretary of State's office - the earliest on-line records available - Starling and the foundation started using the address of the DDA as their official address, even though it turns out the DDA now says they have no record of having approved this usage.
It takes either a certain amount of balls to use a public agency's address as your official address for 16 years, and this practice continues even after I queried Robertson about what she was going to do about this and she sent me some boiler plate instructions from the Secretary of State's office about how to remove an address from their listings.
I responded that she ought to send Starling a letter to the same address she sent him his "donation" checks and tell him to remove the DDA address ASAP. That obviously hasn't happened as of this January 1, 2017, screen grab.
Robertson, in her response to me also claimed that to her knowledge, the DDA had never received any official mail addressed to The Rickia Isaac Foundation during her tenure as the Executive Director, which raises a question of where official mail went, since it's inevitable that some mail would have been sent to the foundation's principal address over the years. corporate documents such as the one above.
In addition to using the DDA address without permission The Rickia Isaac Foundation, or their DBA No More Stray Bullets ever registered as a charity with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The killing of children by random gun violence is a senseless, but unfortunately, all too common occurrence in the Black community, and its understandable that a police department like Miami's would embrace someone who offered a program that focused on buying guns back by offering gift cards.
Heading a program to get guns off the street would go a long way to cementing a relationship between Starling and members of the police department, although even with that as a rationale, his frequency as a visitor to police headquarters, and the willingness of the command staff to allow him to wander around at will prompted periodic comments on the police bulletin board LEO Affairs, including this one in April of 2014.
NOTE: In addition to sending this letter to the Doctor, I also sent the entire collection of letters I wrote to the Doctor to Jerome Starling on Friday morning. I never received a response from either person, or from their attorney.)
A failure to file tax returns for 13 years is not an act that occurs because of confusion or oversight.
No matter the good works performed by any charity, the failure to maintain or provide federal income tax records justifiably raises concerns about the money collected and spent.
HOW MUCH MONEY HAS THIS FOUNDATION RAISED
Based on research that I've been able to do, one has to assume that this foundation has raised considerably more money in recent years than one might suspect.
First, consider a claim that Starling made to a Channel 10 TV reporter earlier this year that in 2014, The Rickia Isaac Foundation claimed to be responsible for 800 guns taken off the streets and in 2015, 600 guns were taken off the street.
Based on the various flyers that the Mimi Police Department circulates before these events, people at some of these buyback events were promised a $50 gift card, and at other events a $50 gift card was promised for unworkable guns, and $100 gift cards for workable guns.
To try and make sense of what this means in financial terms, let's say - for argument's sake - that half of the 600 guns turned over in 2015 were workable, and the other half weren't.
That would mean that the total amount of gift cards that were given to those folks would have been around $45,000.
For the year 2014, the 800 guns would have resulted in around $60,000 in gift card payouts. Now of course, the amounts could be higher or lower, and chances are that more than 50% of the guns turned in did work.
What this means is that in 2014 and 2015 the foundation had to have raised an absolute minimum of $45,000 and $60,000, just to cover the costs of these gift cards.
Then of course there's the costs associated with the staging of their annual banquet which could run $50, $75 or even $100 per person, even accounting for a discount, given that the Hyatt has an agreement with the City of Miami - and then all of the supposed thousands of dollars that Starling brags about giving away to school children as part of an annual essay contest in some on Miami-Dade's public schools.
Add to these costs the supposed money that is given to children who have suffered brain and spinal cord injuries and the payments made to the families for the funerals for the kids killed by gun violence, and this suddenly starts adding up to real money. Money well in excess of the $25,000 that the IRS says is the limit that a charity can collect without being required to filed a complete FORM 990.
On top of all of this, there's the money that Starling has received over the years, because as the tax returns that the foundation did submit reveal, he collected over 50% of the proceeds as personal compensation.
JEROME STARLING - MULTI-MILLIONAIRE
One of the more interesting items I discovered while researching this story was a video that Starling had posted on his Facebook Page last April.
Although Starling only has 200 or so followers, he posts photos and videos like he some sort of celebrity or movie star who has hundreds of thousands, if not millions of viewers waiting to hear or see his every word and action.
In the video, he makes a claim that he came from the pea fields of Georgia to wearing a suit and becoming a multi-millionaire.
The failure of The Rickia Isaac Foundation to register with this state agency is just another RED FLAG that raises questions about the level of professionalism being practiced by those in charge of this foundation, starting of course with the Board's Chairman, Doctor John Kuluz.
WHERE'S THE MONEY
At the end of the day stories like this almost always turn out to be about money.
Like all charities that register and receive an EIN Number, The Rickia Isaac Foundation was required to submit an annual FORM 990 Tax return, as well as to submit W9's to the donors and the IRS on all of the donations it received.
A request to the City of Miami for copies of the W9's provided to the city for the $56,000 that the foundation received from 2013 to 2016, revealed that only a W9 for the 2016 donation from the Mayor's office was signed and submitted to the city.
When it came to the Form 990's - as per Guidestar, the clearinghouse for these kinds of tax records - The Rickia Isaac Foundation only filed 3, FORM 990 tax returns in the 19 years that they've been in operation: 1999, 2000 and 2003.
Two of the three tax returns filed under the Rickia Isaac Foundation show that Jerome Starling received over half of the money collected by the foundation in those years as personal compensation.
In 1999, the foundation collected $57,819 in donations, and he received $33,601 in compensation.
In 2003, the foundation collected $95,000 in donations, and he received $50,000 in compensation. That year a Treasurer also received $10,000 in compensation. (Copies of the tax returns can be viewed HERE.)
In 2000, the foundation collected $90,000 and he received no compensation.
How much money did The Rickia Isaac Foundation collect in donations, or pay out to Starling in the last 13 years remains unknown, because not only did the foundation not file any tax returns, but more importantly Dr. John Kuluz, the foundation's Chairman refused to respond to any of my requests for documents.
As I previously revealed, Doctor John Kuluz and Jerome Starling go back all the way to 1999, when he was listed in the first tax return as the Chairman. He's retained that title all these years, and you have to wonder if there was nothing to hide, then why would he refuse to respond to the 3 letters I wrote him regarding the financial records of this foundation, including my last letter sent to him on December 27th, giving him an opportunity to respond to the allegations that would be part of this story
Guidestar also shows that Starling incorporated under the name No More Stray Bullets Foundation, that at a minimum was required to file a FORM 990N.
Talking about making money is at the core of many of Starling's videos and postings on his Facebook Page, and a claim that he has become a multi-millionaire given that he not only started out in the pea fields of Wrightsville, Georgia, but he did after managing to get a cocaine possession conviction , but also getting busted for writing a bad check and scalping tickets in his early years as the Executive Director of the Foundation.
In spite of all of that, he somehow became, or so he claims, a multi-millionaire.
A search of public records in Florida and Georgia doesn't show that Starling followed any kind of traditional path towards making those millions, because records don't show he owns any companies or property, - other than a house he purchased in 2002 on 71st Street off of Biscayne Boulevard that's valued at $211,464 - that are often the ways ones obtains wealth in America.
So, however he made his millions - if in fact he did - only he and the Lord are privy at this point as to how he did it.
There are several things however, that we can be sure of:
1. All of the money donated to The Rickia Isaac
Foundation goes to his home address, instead of
to a foundation office.
2. The foundation hasn't filed a tax return in 13 years,
and if it has, they've refused to comply with the law
that requires them to make it public.
It's Miami, Bitches!