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May 24, 2016

Former Trustee Jailed in $52 Million Alaska Charity Fraud

A former trustee for two charitable trusts was sentenced Monday to 13-plus years in jail for spending $52 million of one of the organizations’ funds on aircraft, boats, and personal expenses over six months in the mid-2000s, The Boston Globe and Alaska Dispatch News write.

The Globe’s Spotlight investigative team had written about Mark Avery in a 2003 article about foundation trusteeships, often carrying six-figure salaries, being passed on from generation to generation. A former state and local prosecutor in Anchorage, Alaska, inherited seats on the boards of the San Francisco-based May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust and May Smith Trust from his father, earning $600,000 a year and also billing the charities for legal services.

Authorities said that in 2005, under the guise of launching an aviation company for trustee travel, Mr. Avery used May Smith Trust money for a spending spree that included purchases of private jets, military planes and helicopters, a patrol boat, a yacht, and a $700,000 home. He was convicted in February on 11 felony counts in what federal prosecutors said was one of the largest cases of financial fraud in Alaska history. Philanthropy experts told the Globe inherited trusteeships remain commonplace.