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Charity that Scammed Taxpayers Forced to Give Up 120-bed Treatment Facility to County



Volunteers of America Southwest played a critical role in San Diego County’s mental health infrastructure for years – until it was exposed for siphoning money to family members of a chief executive and other financial misdeeds. Now, the charity is being forced to turn over a critical piece of that infrastructure to county officials, according to a new proposed settlement.

County officials had demanded millions of dollars in repayment from VOASW, after auditors determined the charity was misusing funds and couldn’t account for much of its spending.

Now, VOASW plans to hand off a 120-bed treatment facility in National City – the largest in its regional network of treatment centers – to settle with county officials.

“I wish we could get every dollar they defrauded from taxpayers at a one-to-one rate, but the reality is you can’t get blood from a turnip,” said county Board of Supervisors chair Nathan Fletcher. “The value is not just dollars and cents… When we get this running, it will help the entire region.”

The treatment center has been closed since March, said Vicki Bendure, a spokeswoman for the national office of Volunteers of America.

County officials expect they will need to put roughly $1 million into the building to get it ready to use. The property is already zoned to be a substance use disorder treatment facility. Fletcher said that will allow the county to move relatively quickly.

But it’s unclear exactly how long it will take for the building to become operational, he added.

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