Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes’ nonprofit claimed multiple partnerships it never had

The nonprofit Liberate All Value All listed 18 “mission partners,” but many said they had never heard of LAVA or received any support from it.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes aims his Liberate All Value All nonprofit toward offering aid to some of those who need it most — combating human trafficking, supporting disadvantaged and abused kids, preventing suicide, fighting drug and pornography addiction, and helping impoverished people globally.

To achieve its goal, the nonprofit foundation says it “nurtures funding partnerships” and “finds and supports high-impact mission partners.”

As of earlier this week, LAVA’s website had listed 18 of those “mission partners,” including the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition, the Malouf Foundation and The Clothesline Project at Utah Valley University.

But a majority of LAVA’s 18 “mission partners” told The Salt Lake Tribune they were unaware of Reyes’ nonprofit, had received no money from LAVA, and were not affiliated with the attorney general’s organization in any way.

One partner, the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, based in Reyes’ office, received a $20,000 grant from LAVA. And while one nonprofit said it received a “small donation” and another said LAVA had provided funds for airfare, neither had a partnership with LAVA, representatives said.

A Reyes spokesperson said some groups may have received support from LAVA but were unaware of the source of the goodwill and that LAVA has aided groups that weren’t listed.

After The Tribune began contacting the groups, four were removed from LAVA’s list of partners, and others said they planned to ask to have their brands taken down. Two others — doTERRA Healing Hands Foundation and The Freedom Child Foundation — were added to the website sometime late Wednesday or early Thursday.

Jennifer Campbell, executive director of the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition, said she had never heard of LAVA, and there is nothing in the coalition’s records to indicate any partnership or support.

Listing the coalition as a partner under those circumstances, Campbell said, “I personally don’t find that to be a very good practice.”

“If I was just an individual looking at what their work does,” she said, “I would definitely assume a lot.”

The coalition was one of the four removed Wednesday from LAVA’s website.

The origins of LAVA

Reyes has frequently promoted his nonprofit. In the first episode of a short-lived podcast by Tim Ballard, the founder and former CEO of Operation Underground Railroad, Ballard calls Reyes “one of my best friends” and says the attorney general “has his own amazing organization called LAVA that we work with.”

In a statement Thursday night, Reyes said that LAVA “has been a humble but rewarding effort to support those in need across a myriad of humanitarian issues.”

“I have never received any compensation for my part in LAVA,” he said. “Nevertheless, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to make a positive impact on others through LAVA and remain committed to helping those facing challenges in Utah, the United States and worldwide.”

Liberate All Value All is the evolutionary outcome of an earlier iteration of a Reyes nonprofit, the Reyes Family Foundation. Records show the Reyes Family Foundation was incorporated in 2016.

Since 2018, Reyes has been listed each year as the president of the nonprofit, whose mission statement, according to filings with the IRS, is: “To promote and facilitate the preivatization of philanthropy.”

For five straight years, the word “privatization” has been misspelled in the foundation’s annual tax filings.

In those early tax reports, the Reyes Family Foundation states that it supports another nonprofit, The American Foundation of Utah. According to tax records, that foundation is based in Phoenix and operated by Benson Schaub, who is also on the board of LAVA. The foundation — whose mission also is the “privatization of philanthropy” — has brought in roughly $50 million in revenues over the last four years.

The Reyes Family Foundation made a contribution of $23,000 to The American Foundation of Utah in 2019.

On Sept. 30, 2019, the Reyes Family Foundation made a change, rebranding as Liberate All Value All, according to state records. It wasn’t until 2020 that the IRS approved its nonprofit status.

Since then, LAVA has given large grants to three entities, accounting for almost all of the nonprofit’s charitable giving: $20,800 to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, $20,000 to the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force — part of the attorney general’s office — and the largest sum of $38,500 to the Child Liberation Foundation, based in Draper.

The Child Liberation Foundation was a nonprofit founded by former OUR supporter Paul Hutchinson, but the IRS revoked its tax-exempt status for failing to file any tax returns and its registration with the state is expired. The foundation lists itself as a tax-exempt charity and may have had its status reinstated, but records indicate it has not filed the required tax returns.

The ICAC money was used to sustain the officer wellness program for several months, according to Leo Lucey, chief of investigations in Reyes’ office.

All told, in the past five years — both as LAVA and the Reyes Family Foundation — the nonprofit has raised $242,755, given a total of $102,300 in grants and spent $61,882 on travel, advertising and office expenses.

‘We do not partner with LAVA’

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A ropes course at Camp Kostopulos in Emigration Canyon 2010. LAVA lists the camp's foundation as a mission partner, but that status was unknown to the Kostopulos organization.

A review of public tax filings showed only one reported donation — the money given to the ICAC Task Force — to any of the 18 “mission partners” listed on LAVA’s website at the start of the week.

The Tribune attempted to contact the other 17 entities. Several declined to comment or did not return calls or emails. But of the 11 that did, none had any involvement with LAVA or knew the charities’ names and logos were being used on the website without permission, the representatives said.

Several contacted or said they would contact LAVA asking to have their information removed. Besides scrubbing four of the original 18 from the site as of Thursday, LAVA had removed a link on the page soliciting donations of cryptocurrency. The two new organizations added — doTERRRA Healing Hands Foundation and The Freedom Child Foundation — did not return emails Thursday asking about their partnerships with LAVA.

Mircea Divricean, CEO of the Kostopulos Dream Foundation, figured his organization’s inclusion on LAVA’s website was a mistake.

“I don’t know who they are. I’ve never heard of them,” he said when asked about LAVA’s partnership with Camp Kostopulos, which runs summer camps and after-school programs for children with disabilities.

When he was told it was Reyes’ foundation, Divricean was surprised. “He’s a friend to Camp Kostopulos, but he’s never really done anything for us or donated a dollar to us,” he said. “I had no idea.”

Brett Marciel, deputy executive director for The Jason Foundation, a suicide prevention nonprofit based in Tennessee, said he’d never heard of LAVA and had “no formal or known partnership or association with Liberate All Value All.”

Victoria’s Voice Foundation, a nonprofit created to promote drug awareness and access to the overdose-prevention medication naloxone, was contacting LAVA to have its name removed from the site, said spokesperson Adam Miller. “There is no current partnership with LAVA,” he said.

Marco Diaz founded Care-Cuts in 2015 to provide free haircuts to refugees and homeless Utahns and said he too didn’t know his nonprofit was listed as a LAVA partner.

Diaz said he has been good friends with Reyes through their years of Republican political involvement. The attorney general has spoken at a fundraising gala and attended other events, Diaz said, so Reyes was supportive of Care-Cuts’ work.

“He’s my friend and I don’t know anything about LAVA, but it seems like he’s trying to list a bunch of other organizations to show the validity of his organization — is that what’s going on?” Diaz asked. “But have we thrown our support behind LAVA? I would guarantee you not, because we don’t know who they are.”

Beth Thompson, spokesperson for the Malouf Foundation, which focuses on stopping child sexual exploitation and supports the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, said she didn’t know her nonprofit was listed on the site and also planned to ask to have its logo and name removed.

“Long story short,” she said, “we do not partner with LAVA.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) A display from The Clothesline Project stands inside the Utah Capitol's rotunda in 2015. The collection of T-shirts was created by survivors of abuse, or in honor of someone who has died. It was another organization that was not aware it was listed as a partner to LAVA.

The Clothesline Project at Utah Valley University — which displays T-shirts decorated by survivors to raise awareness of the impact of domestic abuse, rape, child sexual abuse, incest and hate crimes based on sexual orientation or disability — was also listed as a “mission partner.”

Summer Barrick Valente, director of the Center for Social Impact at UVU, said the project is entirely funded by the school and run by student volunteers. “We appreciate you bringing this to our attention,” she said, “as we have never partnered with that organization nor given any permission to be listed as a partner on their website.”

Natale McAneney, executive director with Fight The New Drug, which seeks to combat the harms of pornography, said that after searching for information about the nonprofit on Google, she saw her organization was listed as a partner. But Fight The New Drug has never had a partnership with LAVA, she said.

“Obviously, we’re a little bit concerned because we’ve never heard of this organization before,” she said. She asked for contact information for LAVA to have Fight The New Drug’s name removed.

‘A lot of people got help’

One of the entities listed on LAVA’s website, the Salt Lake City-based nonprofit Humanitarian Experience, or HXP, said it received a small donation from LAVA several years ago but was unaware it was listed as a partner.

“Thanks for bringing this to my attention. This is really surprising to me,” said Pedro Rodriguez, chief of staff for HXP. “We just had no idea that someone put our previous logo on their website.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Volunteers with Pacific Island Knowledge 2 Action Resources (PIK2AR) load up meals to deliver to residents in 2021. The organization received financial assistance from LAVA in the past.

Susi Feltch-Malohifo’ou, founder and CEO of the Pacific Island Knowledge 2 Action Resources, was also initially puzzled. “Liberate All Value All? Who runs them?” she asked in an email. “I don’t know who they are by that name.”

When told it was Reyes’ group, she said she worked with Reyes on the Utah Trafficking In Persons Task Force, a state commission that includes Reyes in his capacity as attorney general. Later, she clarified that she had received money from LAVA so her husband could travel to Washington, D.C., to see her accept an award from the director of the FBI.

Reyes’ campaign consultant, Alan Crooks, said that some of the other organizations on the website probably received support from LAVA but didn’t know it. In other cases, he said, LAVA helped groups that weren’t listed.

In 2021, Crooks said, he personally helped an Afghan woman named Crystal Bayat flee to the United States after her country was overrun by the Taliban. Bayat had led protests in the street against the Taliban — captured in a video shot by The New York TImes — and her life was in danger.

Crooks said he flew to Afghanistan and came back with Bayat and her family, and LAVA covered her housing expenses until government assistance was available.

Last year, Reyes posted a photo of himself and Bayat on social media and said he was “blessed to work with the LAVA Foundation to help rescue a young lady who has become like a sister.” Reyes also arranged for the Utah Legislature to honor Bayat with a Warrior Award, which Reyes presented to her.

Another LAVA project was paying for family members of Darin Hoover, a Marine from Utah who was killed during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, to fly to Washington for his funeral service at Arlington National Cemetery and arranging a reception for them, Crooks said.

“There’s a lot of good things that happen there. I’m not sure it’s all reflected in the books,” he said. “I think a lot of people got help and maybe it just wasn’t on the website.”

Crooks also provided a statement from Jennie Taylor, the widow of U.S. Army Maj. Brent Taylor, who was killed in an attack in Afghanistan in 2018. She said that Reyes and LAVA were among the first to reach out after her husband died.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Gold Star widow Jennie Taylor and her children, seen in 2021, received aid from LAVA shortly after the death of her husband, Maj. Brent Taylor.

“They supported my kids with Christmas gifts during that first difficult holiday season and have continued to provide support to our memorial foundation by being one of the sponsors at our annual fundraiser event,” she said in the statement. “We are grateful for the good hearts and the good work being done by the LAVA Foundation.”

The Utah Division of Consumer Protection, in response to questions about LAVA’s unauthorized use of organizations’ names as mission partners, said the agency can investigate when it receives complaints and impose fines, if warranted. The division said it had not received complaints about LAVA.

Utah law prohibits “making any untrue statement of a material fact … whether in connection with a charitable solicitation or a filing with the division.”

Ultimately, while the division can investigate complaints, if the state were to take legal action against any nonprofit, it would likely be handled by attorneys working for Utah’s top law enforcement official: Utah Attorney General and LAVA President Sean Reyes.

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