Social Services Swindle?
BY Andrew Harmon
November 02 2011 12:00 AM ET
Some people have boundless audacity. If the fraud allegations in a recent lawsuit are true, Cornell Jones is one of them.
A former drug kingpin, now reformed (or so the narrative goes), Jones is the executive director of Miracle Hands, a social services organization in Washington, D.C., that he founded after serving nine years of a 27-year federal prison sentence. Once a hustler of near-mythic proportions, he is now accused of returning to old ways'namely by falsifying expense reports totaling $329,653 for the renovation of a former warehouse, one that was supposed to be turned into a job training facility assisting individuals living with HIV.
Instead, the building, located just north of the National Arboretum in a derelict area of northeast D.C., is now an upscale strip club and restaurant, one with $45 rack of lamb entrees and VIP tables accommodating bachelor parties and 'divorce celebrations' starting at $800 for an evening.
Jones allegedly leased the building to a local entertainment club proprietor'once it was spiffed up at taxpayer expense, that is. When two City Council members, David Catania and Jim Graham, expressed outrage at the possibility that Miracle Hands had misappropriated funds, Jones stated on his radio show that they were simply 'a couple of gay guys who sometimes get to acting like little faggots.'
Catania has been on Jones's case since The Washington Post ran a 2009 investigative series on questionable use of AIDS funds in the nation's capital, which has the highest HIV infection rate in the nation. Sadly, he asserts that Miracle Hands is no anomaly in a city with a long and troubled history of poor oversight on grant money. As for Jones's rant, Catania replies, 'The irony of having a person be a provider of services to the community afflicted by HIV going on homophobic rants speaks for itself. I won't stoop to his level.'
In its lawsuit, filed in August in D.C. Superior Court, the district is seeking about $1 million from Jones, who could not be reached for comment. A court hearing on the matter is scheduled for early December.