Attorney General Ellison shuts down fraudulent recycling nonprofit
Investigation uncovers president used funds for personal benefit; settlement requires him to pay money back, permanently bans him from operating charity
October 4, 2023 (SAINT PAUL) -- Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced today that his Office is shutting down The Kitchen Kingz Corporation, a Minnesota nonprofit corporation; is requiring its president, Mitchell Helling, to pay back nearly $20,000 in misused funds; and is permanently banning Helling from operating a charity, having access to charitable assets, or soliciting charitable contributions in Minnesota.
Kitchen Kingz claimed to operate a recycling program where donors could have the nonprofit remove “high-end kitchens and luxury home goods,” which Kitchen Kingz would then repurpose and sell. Kitchen Kingz claimed that it would use the proceeds to help charities like Secondhand Hounds and Prevent Child Abuse America. However, an investigation that the Attorney General’s Office conducted uncovered that Kitchen Kingz had not donated any funds to any charitable beneficiaries a full two years after its formation. Additionally, the investigation found that Helling used at least $19,501.63 of Kitchen Kingz’s assets for his personal benefit instead of in furtherance of Kitchen Kingz’s stated charitable mission. In the Assurance of Discontinuance filed in Ramsey County District Court, the Attorney General’s Office describes how the organization’s board of directors, which Heiling led, failed in its oversight responsibilities, resulting in the misuse of charitable funds.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Helling must pay back $19,501.63 of Kitchen Kingz’s assets that he used for his personal benefit. In addition to the permanent charitable-sector ban, Helling is also subject to a penalty of $25,000 if he violates any term of the settlement. Following the conclusion of Helling’s restitution to Kitchen Kingz, the charity must liquidate its assets, distribute them to one or more Minnesota nonprofit corporations with similar charitable purposes, and dissolve.
“Minnesotans are generous people who want to help others. As Minnesota’s chief regulator of charitable organizations, it’s my job to ensure nonprofits that raise money for charitable purposes put them to proper use. Mitchell Helling abused Minnesotans’ trust and took advantage of their desire to help others when he used their charitable contributions for his own personal benefit,” said Attorney General Ellison. “This settlement ensures the money he misused on himself will in fact be used to help others, and that he can never do anything like this again.”
The Attorney General’s Office’s Charities Division launched this investigation under Minnesota’s civil nonprofit corporation and charitable trust laws, which require nonprofit directors and those who hold charitable assets to adhere to strict governance standards and fiduciary duties. In Minnesota, the Attorney General has civil, not criminal, enforcement authority over the state’s nonprofit corporation and charitable trust laws. As in all cases involving misuse of charitable assets, the Attorney General’s Office will evaluate whether a referral to the appropriate criminal law enforcement authorities is warranted.
Under state law, nonprofit executives owe fiduciary duties to act in the best interests of the charities that they serve, including putting the interests of the nonprofit above any personal financial interests. The Attorney General’s Office provides additional information about these fiduciary duties, as well as other resources to help nonprofit leaders properly serve their organizations, on its website at www.ag.state.mn.us/Charity/InfoNonProfits.asp.
Minnesotans with concerns about nonprofit directors putting their own interests before a charity’s interests may file a complaint online, call (651) 296-3353 or (800) 657-3787, or write the Attorney General’s Office at 445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1400, Saint Paul MN 55101.