Attorney General Becerra Announces $7 Million Settlement Against Lithuanian Assistance Foundation for Illegal Self-Dealing Transactions
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced a $7 million settlement against the Lithuanian Assistance Foundation (Foundation), its directors and officers Albinas Markevicius, Joseph Praske, Zina Markevicius and Arunas Sodonis, and associated companies RME LLC and Washington Shores LLC. The settlement resolves allegations that the officers and directors 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 people of California should be able to trust that their generous donations are going towards their intended purposes. 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,” said Attorney General Becerra. “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.”
The settlement resolves allegations that the defendants breached their fiduciary obligation to act in the best interest of their charitable organization. An investigation by the Attorney General’s Office revealed that interest, valued at more than $6 million, in four real estate properties donated to the Foundation for the benefit of the Lithuanian community, was improperly transferred to members of the board, their relatives, and employees at prices significantly below the fair market value. The investigation also showed that the defendants 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. Additionally, the defendants allegedly filed false registration renewal forms from 2005 through 2013 with the Attorney General’s office. Damages to the Foundation resulting from the real estate transfers exceeded $6 million.
Under the terms of the settlement, RME LLC, Washington Shores LLC, and the directors and officers of the Foundation will pay $7 million in damages. The Foundation must also adhere to the following:
- The Foundation will be required to dissolve. Dissolution will begin within 30 days after the settlement is executed and any assets remaining at the time of dissolution will be deposited with the California Community Foundation;
- Joseph Praske and Albinas Markevicious must agree to not serve on a board of directors for any 501(c)(3) organization. Mr. Praske will be allowed to remain on the board that he currently serves on, but will not serve in any capacity for which he is responsible for the organization’s assets; and
- Zina Markevicius, Arunas Sodonis, and Joseph Praske must complete board training within 90 to 180 days after the settlement agreement is executed.
Attorney General Becerra is committed to protecting consumers and their families. Earlier this month, Attorney General Becerra secured up to $3,550,000 in restitution for consumers who were harmed by Welk Resort Inc.’s deceptive marketing and sales tactics. In May 2020, Attorney General Becerra announced a settlement totaling over $550 million against Santander, the nation’s largest subprime auto financing company, for deceptive auto loan practices. In May 2019, Attorney General Becerra secured a $1.8 million settlement against a deceptive charity, Help the Vets, Inc., for claiming their charity helped veterans when, in fact, almost none of the funds went towards veteran assistance.
A copy of the settlement can be found here.