Gideon’s Army Financial Practices Raise Questions

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (WTVF) – An ongoing NewsChannel 5 investigation uncovers serious new questions about how Gideon’s army spent your money.

It comes as the Nashville social justice group convened activists on Thursday to demand that city leaders donate $ 1 million to Gideon’s army.

WATCH: NewsChannel 5 at 10 p.m.

“It’s our duty, our job and our pleasure to stand side by side to make sure you get funding and we start in Nashville to fund peace now,” Dr Chico Tillmon of the group told reporters. Fund Peace based in Chicago. .

Gideon’s army is working to stop the violence in North Nashville and keep children from ending up in jail.

Corn NewsChannel 5 survey uncovered financial practices that regulators believe could be problematic.

Use of personal account

In May 2020, Gideon’s Army CEO Rasheedat Fetuga posted a Facebook video that went viral, showing Pearl-Cohn High School student Dontrail Spencer as he celebrated his graduation ceremony behind the wheel.

Spencer had been a young volunteer for the non-violence group Gideon’s Army.

Her story was picked up and shared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”.

“Dontrail just went through so much to have the opportunity to, you know, like that, to go viral and have millions and millions of people to see his video,” Fetuga told DeGeneres.

But Fetuga raised eyebrows in the community when she posted this video, touting Gideon’s army work and soliciting donations for Dontrail – using her own personal Cash App account.


Gideon’s Army chief solicits donations with personal Cash App account

NewsChannel 5 survey Fetuga asked, “This video had over four million views. How much money did you make with this video?”

“Um, that was only about $ 10,000,” Gideon’s Army CEO replied, “and Dontrail got all that money. He and his mother will verify that.”

But NewsChannel 5 reached out to Dontrail, he told us he wasn’t sure how much the video was making, that he should ask Fetuga.

Efforts to reach her mother were unsuccessful.

Yet four separate sources close to Gideon and Dontrail’s military independently expressed concerns about the lack of transparency.

NewsChannel 5 survey turned to the deputy director of the state agency that regulates charities.

Phil Williams Shannon Romain.jpeg


Phil Williams interviews Shannon Romain

“Is it good practice to do this? “

“No,” said Shannon Romain, “I don’t think that’s a best practice.”

Romain said the head of a nonprofit asking for donations through a private account could blur the lines between the two.

“The situation here raises, or could raise, concerns for a donor as to whether or not they give it to an individual or donate to a non-profit organization,” she explained.

Fetuga said that since she had a personal relationship with Dontrail, she decided to use her personal Cash app.

“People were asking: publish a Cash app, publish a Cash app. We want to donate. So I put it up there. And he got money, and he got money. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, ”she said.

Cash back

While the past year brought increased public support to Gideon’s army, its operations have been unconventional.

Gideons Army Cash Handout.jpeg


Gideon’s army chief Hambino Godbody donates money

A social media post of Hambino Godbody of Gideon’s Army in January – promising that “hundred dollar bills will be handed out today” – sparked a chaotic scene with people pushing and shoving for cash distributions .

“I know a lot of people in their feelings don’t get it,” Godbody later explained on Instagram.

“But you all have to understand that all we had was $ 15,000.”

Again, Shannon Romain had concerns.

“Direct cash contributions, while easy, could reduce liability and make it more difficult for an organization to show that it is using the funds it receives for charitable purposes and that it is not abusing those funds. “

Fetuga said the money was provided by a North Nashville native who just wanted to do something good for his community

“It was not given directly to Gideon’s army,” she continued.

“The donor came out and gave the money himself. He did it with us. He did it with us, but he didn’t give us the money.”

But that didn’t stop Gideon’s army from filing a report with the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency (MDHA) in Nashville, claiming it had spent $ 15,000 in direct aid to the community.

Gideon's Army $ 15,000 Report.jpeg

MDHA Document

Gideon’s army said $ 15,000 spent on “rent / direct assistance”

Inconsistencies in tax returns

who all drove NewsChannel 5 survey carefully examine Gideon’s army tax returns.

These tax returns, we have found, show large sums of money being wiped off the books – with no real explanation.

For 2019-2020, the group’s tax return shows Gideon’s army cashed in nearly $ 1.5 million.

According to the report, Gideon’s army started the year with $ 95,000, but every penny was recorded as investment losses at the end of the year.

NewsChannel 5 asked Fetuga: “Did you really lose $ 95,000?”

“We didn’t do it,” she insisted. “It was just a clerical error. It happens.”

NewsChannel 5 survey noted that Fetuga signed the tax return, checking it was correct.

“I did, and we went through it, but I didn’t catch it,” she said.

But after this interview, Fetuga provided NewsChannel 5 with an amended tax return prepared by Gideon’s army auditors.

This one showed an adjustment of over $ 170,000 – money was just taken from the books.

Where did that $ 170,000 go?

Fetuga ignored repeated phone calls, texts and emails. Efforts to elicit responses through listeners were also unsuccessful.

After asking for weeks, NewsChannel 5 survey caught up with Fetuga after an event from Gideon’s army in hopes of getting answers.

We asked, “Can you help me figure out what happened to the $ 170,000?” “

“I explained it to you,” Fetuga said.

We continued, “You didn’t explain it.

“Yes, I did,” she insisted, “and that’s it.”

Does this concern state regulators?

“Here, the state would question whether such an adjustment is simply an accounting error – or whether it is a larger question of how they use their finances,” Romain said.

NewsChannel 5 survey asked, “With this amount of money, do you think there would be a bigger problem?” “

“I can’t speak about this because, again, we would assess whether or not this is just a simple accounting adjustment, but it could be something we would definitely consider,” she added. .

We checked and state regulators said the amended tax return provided to NewsChannel 5 was never provided to their office.

Fetuga declined to disclose whether she had filed a return for the year 2020-2021, even though the IRS requires nonprofits to make those returns available to the public.

State audits

On top of that, questions were raised by a recent state audit review of how Gideon’s army spent nearly $ 1 million thanks to a grant from the Tennessee Department of Human Services.

The group “did not properly document the… programs and services provided,” so the auditors could not tell if they really did the job.

Three years ago, a state criminal justice grant was “terminated with immediate effect” after a review found Gideon’s military “billed ineligible costs” to the state.

Among the discrepancies: They had “billed the subsidy for budgeted staff” in July and the first two weeks of August, even though these people weren’t even hired until August 15.

“I agree, if mistakes are made, to be called and fixed,” Fetuga said in our initial interview.

“That’s what happens with rapid growth too, you know. Mistakes will be made. I don’t know of a nonprofit that just hasn’t made any mistakes.”

Fetuga provided NewsChannel 5 with a recently completed audit, but that audit doesn’t detail exactly how that money was spent.

In fact, we found some discrepancies in the audit itself.

But, again, there was no explanation.

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