SANTA MONICA—The Lithuanian Assistance Foundation charity, based in Santa Monica, will close after a settlement agreement with State Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
The $7,200,000 million settlement involves the charity’s directors and officers Albinas Markevicius, Joseph Praske, Zina Markevicius, and Arunas Sodonis, as well as RME LLC and Washington Shores LLC.
The state’s allegations are that these individuals “either engaged in or authorized illegal self-dealing transactions, unjust enrichment, and breach of fiduciary duty by improperly transferring charitable assets to individuals who were related to, or associated with, the charity’s officers and directors, in addition to other wrongdoings.”
The directors and officers of this foundation knowingly used their roles to deceive donors and divert millions of dollars in charitable assets from the organization they were responsible for safeguarding,” Becerra said in a July 2 release.
“With this settlement, we are holding the directors and officers of Lithuanian Assistance Foundation accountable for their wrongdoings and getting misdirected funds back to charity,” he added.
As a result of the settlement, the charity will be forced to “dissolve,” and Markevicius and Praske will never again be able to serve as officials in any California charitable organization.
The Attorney General’s Office conducted an investigation into the charity in 2012 that it improperly transferred interest, valued at more than $6 million, in four real estate properties donated to the Foundation to help the Lithuanian community.
The board, their relatives, and employees received the interest at prices significantly below the fair market value, according to the settlement.
The charity contends that “the transactions were unique, fair market value was paid, and the intended beneficiaries received the proceeds except as limited due to the Attorney General’s investigation,” the settlement says.
The Foundation “did not disclose the donations of the four properties, nor the transfer of these properties, in any of their regulatory filings with the Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts.”
The charity will pay the total sum of the settlement in five separate payments, all respective amounts and due dates stipulated by the attorney general.