LOS ANGELES (CN) – UCLA professor Gerald Buckberg misappropriated charitable donations for his own benefit, Attorney General Jerry Brown claims in Superior Court. The state accuses Buckberg of diverting donations to his nonprofit, L.B. Research Foundation, for personal gain since its inception in 1997.
The complaint claims an attorney general’s office investigation uncovered numerous incidents of misconduct, including $50,000 diverted from 2002 to 2006 for Buckberg’s hotel, conference and travel expenses; $60,000 for his research and laboratory; and $25,000 funneled to a friend in exchange for a donation to the foundation.
The complaint claims that Buckberg awarded grants to “friends, colleagues and research collaborators,” and used more than $120,000 of the foundation’s money to produce an educational DVD called “The Helical Heart,” which is owned by Buckberg’s for-profit corporation, The Helical Heart Company.
L.B. Research Foundation was started to “provide help to persons with physical and psychological problems, provide funding for research activities related to physical or psychological problems and to provide funding for scholarships and other programs that improve education,” according to the complaint.
Five members of LB’s board of directors are also charged, with failing to maintain records and for allowing themselves to be kept in the dark about Buckberg’s doings. “The failure to prepare and maintain LB’s books, accounts, records, board minutes and bylaws as required by law is evidence of gross mismanagement and abuse of authority,” the complaint states, noting that many of the directors and officers were unaware of Buckberg’s malfeasance.
“Although Buckberg purportedly resigned from LB’s board of directors, he still had control over LB’s checkbook, and all investment and bank statements were sent to him,” according to the complaint.
The Attorney General says the directors should be permanently removed from their positions, since they “failed to exercise independent judgment.”
In 2000, Buckberg allegedly diverted $1 million to UCLA to establish an endowed faculty chair position, for which Buckberg applied. LB sued UCLA when it refused to award Buckberg the chair, and spent $400,000 in litigation expenses, the attorney general says.
Attorneys for both sides were unavailable for comment, but Deputy Attorney General Tania Ibanez said the investigation is continuing.
Brown asked the court to dissolve the charity and to enjoin Buckberg and the members of the board from running a charity until they provide his office with accounting statements. Brown also seeks more than $500,000 in allegedly misappropriated funds and civil penalties of more than $100,000.