An Ohio-based activist has been arrested by the FBI for allegedly using US$200,000 (NZ$305,000) in donations to his Black Lives Matter charity for personal expenses.
Sir Maejor Page, previously known as Tyree Conyers-Page, has been federally charged with one count of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering, according to the Toledo Blade, a local daily newspaper.
His arrest came during a raid of a Toledo property owned by Page’s organisation, Hi-Frequency Ohio.
Following Page’s appearance in court on Friday afternoon (local time), the self-proclaimed “civil rights activist, model and actor” was released on a US$10,000 unsecured bond, under the condition that he refrain from Facebook use and any fundraising activity. He has also been barred from opening credit or banking accounts without permission from his probation officer, according to the Toledo Blade.
If found guilty, Page, 32, could serve up to 50 years behind bars and face a US$1 million fine.
Authorities told local media that Page had registered his organisation, Black Lives Matter of Greater Atlanta, as a nonprofit charity with state and federal officials in 2016.
However, Black Lives Matter of Greater Atlanta dissolved in 2019 after its charity tax exemption was revoked and the required paperwork wasn’t filed. Yet the group continued to be listed as a nonprofit organisation on social media, taking in hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last few months.
Officials said Page responded to social media enquiries in June by claiming donated funds were used solely for “movement-related” expenses, not for “personal items”.
But the FBI alleges that a debit card linked to the bank account was used to fund Page’s lavish lifestyle, including dining, entertainment, expensive clothing, furniture, a home security system and property and land in Toledo – yet no expenditures related to efforts against social or racial injustice were identified in his transaction history.
According to the New York Times, supporters donated US$36,493 to Black Lives Matter of Greater Atlanta in June. In July, the organisation took in US$370,934 and in August, US$59,915. The group said the money would go towards supporting the movement.
On August 21, authorities said Page spent US$112,000 of the donated money on the Toledo property and an adjacent lot.
As reported by the Toledo Blade, Page – who had an uncredited role in season three of the television series American Horror Story: Coven – has been a prominent participant in local Black Lives Matter marches, bringing greater visibility to his organisation, Hi-Frequency Ohio.
Hi-Frequency Ohio member Ron Goolsby claimed to the Blade that the property was being established as accommodation for domestic abuse survivors, calling for his friend’s acquittal.
According to a 2018 article by The Georgia Voice, an LGBTQ-oriented newspaper and media outlet based in Atlanta, Page – described by the reporter as a “local eccentric” – has previously faced backlash for a number of incidents, including homophobic comments.
The outlet cited a quote by activist Aurielle Marie Lucier – originally published in the Atlanta-Journal Constitution – that Page was the head of an organisation “that does not exist”.
Referencing the same Atlanta-Journal Constitution story, the article claimed that local activists had branded Page “a fraud, a violent homophobe and a con-artist”.