Questions raised about Houston charity that builds homes for veterans
By CINDY HORSWELL | Houston Chronicle | Published: April 9, 2014
Veteran prosecutor and crime victim advocate Kim Ogg is asking the Harris County district attorney to investigate financial records of the Houston charity Helping A Hero which has taken in millions of dollars to build homes for disabled veterans.
The organization, chaired by Meredith Iler, has been under fire by several veterans who were given homes and former directors of the organization critical of its financial records, treatment of soldiers and broken promises.
The family of one blind veteran, Hunter LeVine, sued the organization late last year for trying to take back his home in The Woodlands after he died from a heart attack. The lawsuit states that a buy-out option the organization tried to execute was invalid. If LeVine died within 10 years of getting the home, the option allows Helping A Hero to purchase the house for the $50,000 that the U.S. Army specialist was required to add to donations.
His father, Beau LeVine, a finance manager for a car dealership, said he had the power of attorney and was not present when that contract was signed by his blind son who could not read it. He also said the house was not worth the $250,000 that Iler reported was raised for it. The contract lists its value as $170,000.
Also, LeVine said nothing was done to make it accessible for a blind person as had been promised.
Iler contends Beau LeVine was present when the contract was signed, and she did nothing wrong.
She said the contract stipulation is being enacted to buy back the home and give it to another disabled soldier.
She said her organization has provided homes for nearly 100 veterans in 22 states.
Ogg, who is calling for the investigation, is a Democratic nominee for Harris County district attorney.
An investigator for the LeVine family, Wayne Dolcefino, contacted Harris County prosecutor Kate Dolan three weeks ago to complain that Helping A Hero had refused to allow him to examine the financial records.
On Tuesday, Dolcefino learned the charity had been contacted by the DA's office and agreed to comply with the law that states the records may be reviewed by the public.
If Dolcefino uncovers any improprieties, he can bring the documentation to the DA's office to be reviewed, said the department's spokesman, Jeff McShan.