When The Chicago Reporter first wrote about Lloyd Kelly in 2009, he was one piece in a noxious puzzle that led to the failure of one of the first AIDS programs for black communities in Illinois. Kelly was the co-founder and executive director of the Let’s Talk, Let’s Test Foundation, the number one recipient of grant funds directed to Illinois organizations battling AIDS on the ground.
Now a federal indictment against him, only recently made public, alleges that he mismanaged tens of thousands of dollars, buying himself a home and paying rent for an unnamed public official, according to The Chicago Tribune. Kelly was indicted for mail fraud under a sealed charge nearly a year ago and arrested on May 20, 2013. The charges against him were made public for the first time on June 21.
The indictment accuses him of “using at least $164,500 from a pair of $1.2 million grants that the Illinois Department of Health made to the now-defunct Let’s Talk, Let’s Test Foundation to pay for personal expenses and campaign” expenses and housing expenses for a lawmaker, according to the Associated Press.
According to reports, the indictment only identifies the lawmaker as Public Official A, who has not been charged. Kelly, who is out on bail and pleaded not guilty, founded Let’s Talk, Let’s Test with former state Rep. Connie Howard, who retired in July 2012 after federal investigators began looking into the organization’s grants.
When Kelly and Howard first started the AIDS awareness organization, it was a turning point for the conversation within the African-American community. Black men in particular were at a high risk for HIV, but few black-run non-profits were tackling the issue. The Let’s Talk, Let’s Test Foundation helped create the Illinois African-American HIV/AIDS Response Fund, which was among the first in the nation to dedicate money to black communities for HIV and AIDS prevention and services.
Kelly told the Reporter that the problem with many non-profits was that they were forced to spend too much time accounting for the funds they received, rather than moving quickly to fix the urgent problems they were tasked to address. But that would prove to become a problem for him.
From the Chicago Reporter’s 2009 story:
The Response Fund supplied grants to 79 organizations across the state–”the largest going to Kelly’s, which was charged with giving technical assistance, assisting in grant writing and making those organizations less reliant on government funding. When a $1.05 million check arrived in August , Kelly began spending it the way he wanted.
The check was about eight months overdue, so he felt justified in adjusting his budget without state approval and neglecting his expense reports. When the foundation’s contract ended Jan. 1, 2008, it had organized an AIDS walk and arranged testing for about 120 people, but hadn’t documented the results or fulfilled key grant requirements, according to Kelly and documents from the Illinois Department of Public Health. There was no written plan for reducing HIV in the black community. None of the 17 one-stop shopping centers had been completed, Kelly said. Several nonprofits that were supposed to receive training stopped participating. And no progress had been reported to the department in months, according to Kelly and health department documents.
The Associated Press detailed how the indictment accused Kelly of using the state’s grant money:
… according to the indictment, Kelly: used $97,500 of the money to help buy himself a home and pay other personal expenses; paid $56,000 to an unnamed organization that paid people to work for Public Official A; used $3,000 to cover the rent for Public Official A’s campaign and legislative offices; spent $7,000 to buy tickets, rent two skyboxes and provide food and alcohol at a 2007 college football game Kelly and Public Official A attended with others at Soldier Field; and paid foundation employees $20,000 to work at Public Official A’s campaign and legislative office.
A year after Kelly first received state funding for the Let’s Talk, Let’s Test Foundation, HIV infection rates for all minorities nationwide were going down, with the exception of the rates for African-Americans, which were going up, according to 2008 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
African Americans still had the highest rate of HIV infection, more than triple that of any other race, according to 2011 CDC reports.