Yele Haiti, the self-serving charity that Wyclef Jean founded (with other peoples' money) to burnish his reputation, lay the ground for a self-aggrandizing run at the presidency of Haiti, keep his mistress employed, and pay himself generous performance fees, has finally collapsed under the weight of its own inefficiency and corruption. According to the New York Times, it has effectively ceased operations.
As longtime Gawker readers will recall, Yele Haiti was the beneficiary of a massive flood of donations in the wake of the Haiti earthquake in 2010—more than $16 million in that year alone. All the money brought scrutiny, and in turned out that Wyclef had used the charity to pay himself rent for space in his studio, award himself $100,000 to perform at a Yele Haiti fundraiser, pay $105,000 to his mistress, cancelled one fundraiser because Yele couldn't meet his fee for playing, and was generally incapable of providing the sort of disaster relief Haiti desperately needed in the wake of the earthquake.
Now, the Times' Deborah Sontag reports, the charity has finally called it quits, "leaving a trail of debts, unfinished projects and broken promises."
A New York state attorney general investigation is currently underway into the group's finances, and "has already found financial improprieties," according to Sontag. A forensic audit found that nearly 10% of Yele's income from 2005 to 2009 was improperly funneled to Jean and his friends.
The forensic audit examined $3 million of the charity's 2005 to 2009 expenses and found $256,580 in illegitimate benefits to Mr. Jean and other Yéle board and staff members as well as improper or potentially improper transactions. These included $24,000 for Mr. Jean's chauffeur services and $30,763 for a private jet that transported Lindsay Lohan from New Jersey to a benefit in Chicago that raised only $66,000.
Sontag turned up plenty of other examples of Jean's profligacy: $600,000 spent on Yele's Haiti headquarters, which are now abandoned. More than $300,000 on "landscaping." More than $400,000 spent on food and beverages. Hundreds of thousands on projects that simply never happened:
Some of Yéle's programming money went to projects that never came to fruition: temporary homes for which it prepaid $93,000; a medical center to have been housed in geodesic domes for which it paid $146,000; the revitalization of a plaza in the Cité Soleil slum, where supposed improvements that cost $230,000 are nowhere to be seen.
[Image via Getty]