Skip to main content
Press Release

President Of Two Minnesota Nonprofits Pleads Guilty To Mail Fraud

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Minnesota

United States Attorney Andrew M. Luger today announced the guilty plea of ROBERTA BARNES, 57, for using her nonprofit organizations to defraud two Minnesota state agencies, stealing more than $460,000 in state and federal grant funds. The defendant pleaded guilty on December 15, 2014, before Judge John R. Tunheim in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, Minn., to one count of Mail Fraud.

“This defendant stole from grant programs designed to help underprivileged communities in Minnesota,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Langner. “She used the guise of two nonprofit entities to steal money that could have been used for philanthropic purposes in order to enrich herself.”

According to her guilty plea and documents filed in court, BARNES was the president of two St. Paul-based nonprofit organizations, Agape House for Mothers (“Agape”) and Sierra Young Family Institute (“Sierra”). Through Agape and Sierra, BARNES obtained approximately $1.7 million in grant funds offered by the Minnesota Department of Health (“MDH”) and the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (“MHFA”).

From 2002 until May 2012, BARNES applied for and received grant money from MDH and MHFA through promises that the funds would be used for philanthropic purposes such as combating teen pregnancy and providing housing assistance to needy families. Instead, BARNES intended to and did use a significant portion of the grant funds to make mortgage payments, car payments and other unauthorized payments to herself and her family.

Between 2002 and 2012, BARNES, on behalf of Agape and Sierra, obtained a series of grants from MDH for the purported purpose of operating teen pregnancy programs for minority populations in the St. Paul area. In 2008, BARNES, on behalf of Sierra, applied for and received a grant from MHFA, falsely representing that the funds would be used for finance programs designed to provide assistance to households experiencing long-term homelessness.

According to her guilty plea and documents filed in court, BARNES spent more than $460,000 of the grant funds on personal expenses for herself and her family; she attempted to conceal her fraud scheme by creating fraudulent invoices that reflected false expenses incurred by Agape and Sierra.

This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Benjamin Langner is prosecuting the case.

Defendant Information:

St. Paul, Minn.

• Mail Fraud, 1 count



Updated April 30, 2015