SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane police confirm they're now involved in the investigation into reports of suspected fraud involving a large amount of money in the city's housing and homeless system.
On Monday, Spokane City Council members said they learned a former Guardians Foundation employee was allegedly mishandling money. The claims prompted two council members to call for a criminal investigation into the suspected fraud. They said the stolen funds range from anywhere between $100,000 to $1 million.
The Spokane Police department confirmed on Tuesday there is an open investigation into The Guardians Foundation. SPD assigned a detective Tuesday to look into the allegations of theft and embezzlement within the organization. That means city council members who were calling for a criminal investigation got what they wanted.
Details surrounding the suspected fraud within the Guardians Foundation continue to develop.
We do know right now the Mayor's office ordered an internal audit, which is currently underway. That's because the city awarded millions of taxpayer dollars to the Guardians to operate shelters in the city.
The Guardians Foundation became a tax-exempt non-profit in 2011. Its CEO, Mike Shaw, founded the organization with the intent to help veterans.
The organization's website said it maintains multiple facilities that house at-risk veterans and their families in Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Utah.
In May 2020, The Guardians took over operations at the Cannon Street center in Spokane.
Then, in September 2021, the city of Spokane awarded the Guardians a $1.85 million contract to operate the Cannon street center as a year-round shelter.
In August 2022, City Council approved a $6.5 million agreement with the Guardians to run the new Trent Avenue Shelter.
We searched the non-profit's status with the Washington Secretary of State's office. It lists their business status as delinquent.
And in a search on GuideStar, a website that monitors non-profits, it said, "this organization's exempt status was automatically revoked by the IRS for failure to file a Form 990, 990-EZ, 990-N, or 990-PF for 3 consecutive years. Further investigation and due diligence are warranted."
Still, the Guardians remain the operator for the city's Cannon Street and Trent Avenue Shelters.
We still do not have a police report of the suspected fraud. We also don't know who the suspected former employee is or how much money was stolen. We continue to press the city, the Mayor's office, and The Guardian's CEO for more information. But at this time, they have not given any more details.
In the meantime, City Council member Michael Cathcart said a forensic audit is currently underway and is expected to be completed by October 31.
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