The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

D.C. attorney general seeks to block access to Casa Ruby bank accounts

In court filings, the AG’s office said it is investigating ‘the full extent of the misuse’ of the LGBTQ nonprofit’s funds

Casa Ruby founder Ruby Corado, center, in 2019. Corado “appears to have fled the country,” D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine said. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)
Placeholder while article actions load

D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine is seeking a temporary restraining order against Casa Ruby to freeze the LGBTQ nonprofit’s financial accounts and to prevent founder Ruby Corado from making further withdrawals, documents filed Monday in D.C. Superior Court show.

Last month, a Washington Post report raised questions about possible financial mismanagement at the nonprofit. The report was based on interviews with former employees, court records, tax filings and thousands of emails to and from officials at the D.C. Department of Human Services obtained through a public records request.

Casa Ruby shut down most of its operations in July. It reported more than $4.1 million in grants and other revenue on its most recent federal tax filings, which showed that Corado earned $260,000. But employees say they have gone without pay, and at least four landlords have told city agencies that the nonprofit did not pay rent on properties that it leased across the city for its low-barrier shelter and transitional housing programs.

Casa Ruby shuts down the rest of its operations, and workers go unpaid

Corado has not responded to The Post’s phone calls or emails, but she told a Telemundo reporter last week that she was in El Salvador and had done nothing wrong. Although Corado stepped down as executive director last fall, employees have told city officials and The Post that she retained sole control over the nonprofit’s bank accounts.

“Casa Ruby’s operations suggest clear patterns of gross mismanagement and poor oversight of its programs and finances,” Racine said in a statement. “Instead of fulfilling its important mission of providing transitional housing and support to LGBTQ+ youth, Casa Ruby diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars in District grants and charitable donations from their intended purpose. Their Executive Director appears to have fled the country, withdrawn at least tens of thousands of dollars of nonprofit funds, and has failed to pay employees and vendors money they are rightfully owed. Upon hearing of the suspicious circumstances surrounding its collapse, our office immediately began investigating and is using our broad authority over District nonprofits to safeguard the organization’s assets and hold its leadership accountable.”

Bowser on Casa Ruby closure: ‘We have to figure out what happened’

Since 2016, Casa Ruby has received $9.6 million in grants from city agencies to serve the needs of the Latino and LGBTQ+ youth communities in the District. Last fall, the D.C. Department of Human Services declined to renew an $839,460 grant to Casa Ruby to run a low-barrier shelter.

The shelter, which housed at least 10 young people at the time, shut down in September, but the nonprofit continued to run other programs, including one for victims of crimes and another for asylum seekers, until last month. And the city has continued to fund the nonprofit. Since October, four D.C. agencies — DHS, the Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs, the Department of Health, and the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants — have paid Casa Ruby a combined $802,147, according to a city contracting database. The mayor’s office did not respond to phone and email requests for comment, and a DHS official declined to comment.

The Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs stopped releasing grant money in February, but the other three agencies have continued to make payments, the database shows. The Office of Victim Services, for instance, paid Casa Ruby more than $13,000 in July. That money would more than cover the monthly salaries of the employees who ran Casa Ruby’s victim services department, director Kisha Allure said, but Allure and her assistant, Kiara Goode, went six weeks without receiving a paycheck. Both told The Post that they are unsure how they will cover their bills next month.

Allure said the attorney general’s announcement “makes me feel that someone actually cares, that my city and my government care about the livelihood and equality of all individuals, whether they are trans people or whomever. However, my monthly bills and my livelihood are still at stake.”

Although the nonprofit listed a board of directors on its federal tax filings, the attorney general’s office found that between 2012 and 2020 the board “apparently never met, and it generated no records or minutes to document any action.”

According to the attorney general’s office, Casa Ruby board members Jack Harrison-Quintana, Meredith Zoltick and Hassan Naveed resigned by email on Sept. 29, 2021, Feb. 23, 2022, and April 24, 2022, respectively. Any remaining board members are inactive.

In addition to asking the court to freeze Casa Ruby’s accounts, the attorney general’s complaint asks the court to appoint a court-supervised official to stabilize and reform the management of the nonprofit, and seeks an “equitable accounting of records” for the nonprofit’s finances, “as they’ve had no meaningful oversight for years,” Racine’s statement said. Racine also asked the court to impose a trust or other remedy to regain control of any money that Corado may have improperly obtained.

Casa Ruby, shelter for LGBTQ youth, loses D.C. government funding

According to the attorney general’s office, Corado’s control of the nonprofit’s finances was “near absolute.” It said that she is the only current signatory on the nonprofit’s bank accounts and that she has access to its PayPal account, which processes all donations made to Casa Ruby through its website. Starting in at least 2021, Racine’s office said, Corado withdrew tens of thousands of dollars from Casa Ruby’s accounts, and she withdrew at least $604 as recently as July 19.

“Even employees with significant responsibilities over Casa Ruby’s affairs could not spend any of Casa Ruby’s funds without Corado’s express permission,” Racine’s office said.

The attorney general’s office also said Corado has used and continues to spend Casa Ruby’s money without the knowledge or participation of other managers and without oversight from the nonprofit’s board. It said that throughout 2021 Corado used more than $60,000 in Casa Ruby’s funds to pay bills for a charge card she controlled. The attorney general’s office found that Corado used Casa Ruby funds to pay for meals and expenses related to transportation to and in El Salvador.

In court filings, the attorney general’s office said that it is still investigating “the full extent of the misuse” but that “significant nonprofit funds have been used for Corado to travel to, live in, and eat in El Salvador, as well as to pay charges on a credit card she controlled that were never reviewed or approved by the organization’s Board.”

Judge Danya A. Dayson will hear the case Oct. 28 in a remote hearing.