Deal reached in case involving Chicago's Puerto Rican parade

 
 
Updated 3/21/2020 10:45 AM

CHICAGO -- The Illinois attorney general's office has reached a settlement in a bankruptcy case involving a group that organized an annual Puerto Rican parade and festival in Chicago that was under investigation for allegations of theft and deceptive practices.

As part of the deal, the Puerto Rican Parade Committee's remaining assets - about $30,000 from the sale of its home building - will be go to the Daniel Ramos Puerto Rican Festival Committee, which is now in charge of organizing the popular parade and summer festival in the city's Humboldt Park neighborhood.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

'The Puerto Rican Day Parade and festival is an important celebration that brings together Chicago's Puerto Rican community to showcase their rich culture, and the misuse of the Puerto Rican Parade Committee's funds jeopardized this important Chicago tradition," Attorney General Kwame Raoul said in a news release announcing the March 5 settlement. He said the settlement "ensures that those who misused funds are held accountable for improper spending that took advantage of donors and the Chicagoans who anticipate these festivities each year.'

Carmen Martinez, the partner of the Puerto Rican Parade Committee's former president, Angel Medina, was involved in numerous financial dealings with the committee, according to Raoul. Martinez has been banned from acting as a charitable fiduciary in the state and from serving as a trustee or board member for another nonprofit organization, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Martinez told the Tribune she preferred not to discuss the case.

When the committee filed for bankruptcy protection in 2017, it said it had more than $900,000 in debts.

The Illinois attorney general's office started investigating the nonprofit committee in July 2018 over complaints about hundreds of thousands of dollars in questionable spending.

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Police were also investigating the committee over allegations that it didn't pay some vendors and over questions about how much money it collected from entrance fees for the festival, which is held in June. Some of those fees were supposed to go toward helping Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria.

The attorney general's office alleged that Martinez had violated Illinois' charitable trust laws, claiming that Martinez and Medina 'engaged in multiple questionable transactions' related to the committee's assets and mortgages on the committee's building, Casa Puertorriquena.

'I think the bankruptcy coming to a closure allows for new beginnings,' said Charles Serrano, a leader in the new effort.

Carlos Jimenez Flores, executive director of the Daniel Ramos Puerto Rican Festival Committee, said he expects this year's festival will be 'bigger and better."

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