By EGP News Report - February 3, 2011
The home of a long-time institution that once offered English classes as well and other civic, social and Mexican cultural activities in Boyle Heights, may be auctioned off later this month after reportedly falling behind on loan payments, according to recently published media reports and community activists seeking an investigation into the non-profit’s financial dealings.
La Casa del Mexicano, located at 2900 Pedro Infante St. was established as a non-profit organization in 1931 under the supervision of the Mexican Consul General of Los Angeles and registered under the name Comité de Beneficencia Mexicana, Inc., according to state Senator Kevin De León’s office (22nd District).
De León, who previously represented the 45th Assembly District, became aware of the possible problems last November when a group of constituents informed him and his staff that the non-profit appeared to be conducting business under a non-existent board of directors and had allegedly obtained a bank loan on the property without legitimate authorization.
Last week, De Leon sent a letter to State Attorney General Kamala Harris urging her to investigate the status of the organization and to ensure compliance with the law.
As a non-profit entity for public benefit, La Casa del Mexicano receives taxpayer dollars to help it fulfill its obligations, Greg Hayes, communication director for De Leon, told EGP. The letter to Harris asks for assistance from her investigatory and prosecutorial department to look into the complaint and make sure the organization is abiding by the law, he added.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina’s office has confirmed that the matter was brought to the supervisor’s attention as well. Her office has forwarded the complaint to County Consumer Affairs to be investigated, Roxane Marquez, Molina’s senior legislative press deputy told EGP on Tuesday.
Councilmember Jose Huizar, who represents the area, has also expressed concern over the non-profit. Huizar spokesperson, Rick Coca, said his boss sent a letter last December to the Secretary of State, who oversees non-profits operating in the state, to look into the matter.
Spanish-language daily La Opinion on Jan. 30 reported that husband and wife, Martha and Ruben Soriano, the directors of the non-profit, took out a $175,000 loan against the property in 2006. After failing to make payments, default notices were issued, and the property is in foreclosure.
The former mosque, built in 1904, has a real estate value of $930,000, and will be auctioned off with a starting bid of $250,000, La Opinion reported.
Javier Rodriguez, local long-time activist and director of the March 25th Coalition, has been actively trying to get to the bottom of La Casa del Mexicano’s status. He has coordinated press conferences and sent out community and media alerts on the topic. In his most recent email, he indicates a court mandated injunction is needed in order to stop the auction.
“The $175,000 was an illegal transaction, since there was no board approval, due to the fact that on June 19, 2006, the date of the loan approval, there was no board of directors in place, nor any known general members,” he wrote.