Wyclef Jean Faces the Music About His Now-Defunct Charity, Yéle Haiti

By Akiba Solomon Oct 12, 2012

Yéle Haiti, the charity founded by former Fugees frontman Wyclef Jean, is no more. The organization, which raised millions of dollars after the January 12, 2010 Haitian earthquake, faced accusations of financial mismanagement prior to the quake and is is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the New York attorney general.

But now, as Jean tours the United States promoting his autobiography, Purpose: An Immigrant’s Story, and claims that he will be vindicated, The New York Times provides damning evidence of Yéle’s and Jean’s self-service.

In addition to hundreds of thousands of pre-quake dollars that Yéle spent on office space, landscaping, private jet transportation for entertainers such as Lindsay Lohan and Matt Damon and a $100,000 performer’s fee for founder Jean, the Times reports 2010 expenditures of $4.5 million on administrative costs:

"In 2010, Yéle spent $9 million and half went to travel, to salaries and consultants’ fees and to expenses related to their offices and warehouse. In contrast, another celebrity charity, Sean Penn’s J/P Haitian Relief Organization, spent $13 million with only 10 percent going to those costs.

Though Mr. Penn’s group spent $43,000 on office-related expenses, Yéle spent $1.4 million, including $375,000 for "landscaping" and $37,000 for rent to Mr. Jean’s Manhattan recording studio. Yéle spent $470,440 on its own food and beverages."

In addition, reports the Times, few Haitians benefited from Yéle’s programs:

"Some of Yéle’s programming money went to projects that never came to fruition: temporary homes for which it prepaid $93,000; a medical center to have been housed in geodesic domes for which it paid $146,000; the revitalization of a plaza in the Cité Soleil slum, where supposed improvements that cost $230,000 are nowhere to be seen."

Of Yéle contributions, one orphanage director and aid recipient said, "If I had depended on Yéle, these kids would all be dead by now."

Yéle Haiti’s chief executive and last remaining employee, Derek Q. Johnson, resigned in late August.