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Activist Hari Dillon sent to prison for fraud

Hari Dillon, a former social activist and CEO of Vanguard Public Foundation, was sentenced this week to more than three years in prison after being convicted of embezzling money from the foundation and its investors.

Dillon embezzled $2.5 million from the Vanguard Public Foundation, contributing to the foundation’s financial demise. U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer sentenced Dillon to three years and four months in prison and ordered that he pay back the money he stole.

The charity, backed by celebrities Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte, was created to help fund various social movements such as anti-war and environmental causes.

Judge Breyer told Dillon during the trail:

“You were blinded by the correctness of the causes you were advocating. You have ruined a foundation and you have dealt a devastating blow to organizations that promote social justice.”

In July 2010 Dillon pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering. He was set to receive a 7-year prison sentence, but received a lighter sentence after he helped investigators build a case against  Samuel “Mouli” Cohen. In April, Cohen was sentenced to 22 years in prison for running a $30 million Ponzi scheme and defrauding the Vanguard Public Foundation.

The scheme began when Cohen approached Dillon in 2002, stating that his company, Ecast, was soon going to be purchased by Microsoft. Dillon turned around and encouraged investors at the foundation to buy Ecast stock. Millions of dollars later, in 2008 the entire scheme was unveiled as a lie.

Cohen was the mastermind behind the fraud, though Dillon admitted to skimming investors’ money. According to prosecutors, Dillon spent his money on expensive meals at Bay Area restaurants, luxury hotel rooms, and a San Francisco penthouse apartment.

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