Charge: Woman running St. Paul nonprofits stole $450K-plus for herself, family

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 14, 2014 - 12:52 PM

According to prosecutors, for more than four years until 2012, Barnes diverted federal and state money distributed by the Minnesota Health Department for her own use, such as making mortgage payments and high-end retail purchases.

A St. Paul woman stole more than $450,000 in government funding intended for the two nonprofits she operated and whose missions were to combat teen pregnancy and offer other assistance to blacks, African immigrants and other minority group members in need, according to federal charges.

Roberta D. Barnes, 57, was charged Friday in federal court in Minneapolis with mail fraud as part of the alleged scheme she concocted through her now-defunct St. Paul nonprofits, Agape House for Mothers and Sierra Young Family Institute.

In late 2012, the state Office of the Legislative Auditor said it “found evidence that the Institute’s executive director used a significant amount of grant money for personal expenses and fabricated documents to conceal the nature of those expenses.”

The office added that Barnes failed to explain checks she made out to herself and payments issued to high-end stores such as Handbags by Miche; designer jeans retailer 7 For All Mankind, and Dillard’s. The same was true for payments to the St. Paul impound lot and a pawnshop, the auditor continued.

Barnes’ attorney, John Tackett, said Monday that he wanted to speak with his client before commenting on the case.

According to the criminal complaint:

For more than four years until 2012, Barnes diverted federal and state money distributed by the Minnesota Health Department for her own use, such as making mortgage and car payments, rather than directing the funding to combat teen pregnancy, reduce transmission of sexually transmitted diseases and provide rental assistance to needy families.

In all, Barnes skimmed more than $460,000 in government money intended for her nonprofits.

In the wake of the complaint, Barnes has been ordered to forfeit to the federal government her 2006 Buick Rendezvous.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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