Whistleblower, survivors prompt investigations into Fresno human trafficking charity

A former employee of Made For Them blew the whistle on alleged mismanagement of money and unethical treatment of survivors.

Friday, August 26, 2022
Whistleblower, survivors prompt investigations into Fresno charity
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Police, the state labor commissioner, and the IRS are investigating Fresno human trafficking charity Made For Them accused of exploiting survivors.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Police, the state labor commissioner, and the IRS are all investigating a Fresno human trafficking charity accused of financial mismanagement and exploiting survivors.

"When you have survivors using their personal, God-given gifts to uplift and support your business without compensating them, that's re-exploitation," said former Made For Them employee Joy Jones.

In the 11 years since Made For Them registered as a nonprofit to help human trafficking survivors, the organization built a strong fundraising operation.

From the Festival of Trees at River Park each Christmas season to Fight with Fashion events emceed by ABC30 reporters and anchors, executive director Andrea Shabaglian didn't shy away from cameras to broadcast her message.

"Made for Them would like our Central Valley to know that we need the community to support us and our work," she told Action News in an October 2020 interview at a fundraiser

She's kept a lower profile since a former employee blew the whistle on alleged mismanagement of money, potential tax evasion, and unethical treatment of survivors who asked her organization for help.

"Your means can't justify the ends when victims and survivors' livelihoods are at stake," said Ashleigh Rocker-Greene, a former associate director and interim executive director at Made For Them.

Rocker-Greene shared inside information with the state's attorney general, the labor commissioner, Fresno police, and the IRS.

She accuses Shabaglian of re-traumatizing the exploited, like Arien Pauls-Garcia.

The human trafficking survivor says Shabaglian used her story to build the Made For Them brand.

But when she had a baby and asked Shabaglian for diapers, she hit a wall.

"(I) was told no," Pauls-Garcia said. "Was told I was given the means and the know-how of how to support and provide for my child. And I went back out on the streets to provide for my newborn child, but yet I was 'receiving services' - in air quotes - from an organization that promised to protect me."

It's an organization she says had an abundance of supplies when she asked for help.

Other survivors say they worked hundreds of hours making soaps and jewelry later sold by Made For Them, but they never got paid.

The organization continued fundraising, even when it lost its charity status for nearly two years through this April.

Shabaglian hasn't directly responded to any of the allegations, including after asking us to email questions Thursday.

She posted to Facebook that Made For Them was pausing direct services, but it will continue a volunteer street outreach program helping families who live along Highway 99.

Fresno Assemblyman Jim Patterson honored Made For Them with a resolution in 2018, but he's amplifying the criticism now.

"They were re-traumatized and in many ways, re-trafficked, by the very organization that is supposed to help them get out of trafficking and move ahead," said Patterson, (R) Fresno.

Patterson says the organization can survive, but not with Shabaglian at the helm, and only by focusing on the fundamentals: getting survivors therapy, training, and life skills.

The government investigations into Made For Them could take some time, but its critics are expecting results of an audit soon from a Colorado-based human trafficking research company.