Wyclef Jean's Yéle Hits a Bad Note

The musician's charity is questioned over its "platinum" past

You’ve probably seen the tweets or text message forwards: text “Yele” to 501501 to donate $5 in support of Haitian earthquake victims.

And there’s another big push to raise money at the 9:30 Club near the U Street corridor in northwest Washington Monday. The event features local rapper Wale, among other performers.

Grammy-winning musician Wyclef Jean is leading the massive relief effort. And it’s been a successful campaign. Jean’s Yéle Haiti Foundation has raised more than $2 million dollars. But now Jean is under fire over the charity’s financial history.

The Smoking Gun first reported that the Internal Revenue Service records show the group has a lackluster history of accounting, and that the organization has paid the performer and his business partner at least $410,000 for rent, production services, and Jean’s appearance at a benefit concert.

Wyclef Jean is fighting back, responding to the allegations in a YouTube clip.

Jean states he has “always been committed to the people of Haiti, I live in the country, I’m Haitian. This is where I come from.”

“It is impossible for me to even comprehend the recent attacks on my character and the integrity of my foundation,” Wyclef Jean said in statement. “The fact that these attacks come as we are mobilized to meet the greatest human tragedy in the history of Haiti only serves to perplex me even further.”

Records show that Yéle Haiti made almost $1 million in revenue in 2006 and $1.9 million in 2008.

The group paid $31,200 in rent to Platinum Sound, a Manhattan recording studio owned by Jean and Jerry Duplessis, who, like Jean is a foundation board member. A $31,200 rent payment was also made in 2007 to Platinum Sound. The rent, tax returns assure, “is priced below market value.” The recording studio also was paid $100,000 in 2006 for the “musical performance services of Wyclef Jean at a benefit concert.”

The charity also paid $250,000 to Telemax, which is also a TV station and production company that is owned by Jean and Jerry Duplessis.

And Yéle Haiti's PR firm told the Washington Post that the $250,000 check to Telemax was used for “everything from public-service announcements to educational programming.”

As of now, Yéle Haiti is continuing with its campaign to raise money for earthquake victims. Foundation president Hugh Locke says Yele intends to airlift medical supplies, water and Cliff Bars to Haiti using a FedEx plane this week.

The concert promoter for Monday night’s fundraiser at the 9:30 says the show will go on and the proceeds will go to Yéle Haiti.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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