Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.

The Ohio Attorney General’s office has announced that a Franklin County sober-housing charity that exploited and abused residents is now permanently closed and more than $2 million has been recovered from its dissolution by a court-appointed receiver.

About 100 recovering drug users and alcoholics resided in more than two dozen residential properties owned by Summer Rays, paying the nonprofit a weekly “program” fee ranging from $100 to $150 for a shared room, agreeing to abstain from drug and alcohol use, attend weekly meetings and church services at the nonprofit Reynoldsburg Revolve Church.

Recovery-housing like Summer Rays largely unregulated in Ohio

But in 2018 the Ohio Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit in Franklin County Common Pleas Court against the two nonprofits and their director, Reynoldsburg resident Charles “Chuck” Kirk, alleging that Summer Rays did not provide counseling or develop individualized plans to help the residents leave the nonprofit program and make it on their own.

In fact, the state alleged that Kirk exploited the residents, many of whom lived in unsanitary conditions, by using them to staff several side businesses that Kirk and his family ran, including the Rev Cafe inside the church. In return, they would receive a reduced program fee or be paid cash.

“This is more than just a philanthropy pitfall,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said in a prepared release issued Thursday. “Chuck Kirk used his absolute control over the finances of Summer Rays and RRC to rip off the individuals he claimed to want to help. Charities are not to be confused with family businesses.”

Court documents describe multiple instances of intimidation or Summer Rays residents, including sexual harassment. They say Kirk loudly called one resident a “hillbilly whore” and even hurled a plastic cup, filled with urine from a drug test, at another resident.

Kirk, his wife, his two adult daughters, his sister, his cousin and his aunt, who were also board members of Summer Rays, failed to look out for the best interests of the nonprofit’s residents and unlawfully benefitted personally from the charitable status of the nonprofits, Yost’s office said.

The Kirk family lived in a house paid for by Summer Rays. His two adult daughters lived rent-free in houses owned by Summer Rays that were not used by the nonprofit for reisdents or programming while they attended college at Kent State University and Capital University.

Nonprofits building more housing in Northland area

Franklin County Common Pleas Judge David Young previously issued rulings against those involved with the nonprofits, including an order permanently banning Kirk from creating or working with a nonprofit organization in Ohio.

The court-appointed receiver assigned to complete the shutdown of Summer Rays as a result of the lawsuit sold off the properties, getting secured creditors more than $642,000 on multiple mortgage loans, local governments more than $527,000 in overdue real estate taxes and more than $248,000 to pay wage-and-hour claims and damages to former Summer Rays’ residents and employees.

In addition, the attorney general’s office recovered more than $107,000 for redistribution to charities dealing with sober living or mental health and addiction services.

Most of the defendants were ordered by the judge to pay a combined total of $50,000 in restitution and civil damages. The judge also ordered a combined $40,000 in civil penalties against some defendants who provided false and misleading information.

Funds from the civil penalties and damages go to the Ohio Attorney General’s Charitable Law Section, which will use the money to continue oversight of the state’s nonprofits and provide funds for grants for charities, Yost’s office said.

Jordan Laird is a courts reporter at the Columbus Dispatch. You can reach her at [email protected]. You can follow her on Twitter at @LairdWrites.

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio AG: Sober-housing charity that exploited residents is dissolved