#SanFrancisco’s socialite charity scammer taken down

A venerable San Francisco charity must repay the public tens of thousands of dollars after misleading city officials — a rare rebuke that follows a significant internal shakeup at Helpers Community Inc.

The 60-year-old nonprofit, founded to assist people with developmental disabilities, has removed its longtime executive director from the board, slashed her salary by one-fifth, and is debating a partnership with another organization or perhaps shutting down completely.

The changes address questionable practices revealed by the newspaper in December: For years, Helpers had deceived donors, spending scant funds on its stated mission of supporting residential care for people with developmental disabilities while paying an outsize salary to its director, Joy Venturini Bianchi.

The scheme helped Bianchi became a prominent figure on San Francisco’s fashion and social scenes, with little attention paid to her business practices.

This month the San Francisco Office of the Assessor-Recorder decided Helpers would have to pay about $31,000 in back taxes, after determining the charity received several years of tax exemptions by misrepresenting the use of properties it owns along Golden Gate Park, city officials said.

The assessor’s action should raise questions among state and federal regulatory agencies about Helpers’ legitimacy as a nonprofit, according to nonprofit experts.

For 13 years, Helpers gave nothing to residential programs. And between 2003 to 2008, the group gave nothing to any charitable cause at all, financial records showed.

Read the whole story in the San Francisco Chronicle

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