Fresno's 'Made For Them' used human trafficking survivors' services without pay or support: Audit

ByNic Garcia and staff KFSN logo
Wednesday, August 31, 2022
Fresno charity used trafficking survivors' services without pay: Audit
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An audit of 'Made For Them' has found that the Fresno charity sensationalized sex trafficking and used the services of survivors without paying them.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- An external audit of 'Made For Them' has found that the Fresno nonprofit sensationalized sex trafficking and used the services of survivors without paying them.

The audit by human trafficking research group 'The Avery Center' started at about the same time as investigations by police, the state labor commissioner, and the IRS. All are investigating the charity for alleged financial mismanagement and exploiting survivors.

RELATED: Whistleblower, survivors prompt investigations into Fresno human trafficking charity

The audit report, which was released to Action News on Tuesday, recommended immediate and 'extensive third-party intervention' into the nonprofit's functioning. It gave Made for Them a 2 out of 5 on their scale for measuring successful anti-human trafficking efforts.

Auditors said the group lacks structure and may have created potential for harm or re-exploitation of its clients.

"All individuals interviewed noted various experiences where they were asked to share their story, on short notice, without compensation or support before or after the fundraising event, or signed contracts and without consent forms filled out," said the report.

The survivors interviewed said they were asked to model clothes at Made For Them fundraising events, without being paid or asked for written consent.

The 21-page document also said the Made for Them staff has little to no formal training on trauma, and that the organization needs to work with experts who have 'lived-experience' who can better relate to survivors.

Andrea Shabaglian founded Made for Them 11 years ago as a nonprofit to help human trafficking survivors.

The organization quickly gained the support of the community, from the Mayor's office to ABC30.

But people who worked for the charity say nobody knew what was going on inside the organization.

"Often, the program director and I would be asking, 'Where are the survivors that are supposed to be participating in the program?' And also asking questions like 'What are other human trafficking organizations doing out there? Are we duplicating services?'" former associate director Ashleigh Rocker Greene told Action News on Tuesday, after the release of the audit report.

She's the whistleblower who alerted authorities about alleged mismanagement of money, potential tax evasion, and unethical treatment of survivors.

"I feel heard and validated. In section 6 about distribution of funds, their internal forensic auditor - who is licensed - was asking the same kinds of questions I was asking in my emails to the board," she said.

The audit questioned where money was spent and how the charity's budget worked.

Some of the survivors who were supposed to be getting help from Made for Them say they made soaps and jewelry later sold by the organization, but they never got paid.

"This is significant confirmation that Made for Them, through flashy fundraisers, actually exploited and re-victimized survivors while they were at it," said Assemblymember Jim Patterson in a statement.

He also went on to say in his statement...

"The Avery Center is calling for an independent financial audit - I second that and I hope the results would be made public."

Joy Jones worked as a case manager at Made for Them. She said there was constant confusion over what services were offered and ultimately the charity did little to actually help survivors of human trafficking.

"I do genuinely believe Andrea has a heart to help. I believe that she feels she is called and chosen to do this. I always say many are called but few are chosen. Just because it tugs at your heartstrings, doesn't mean you're supposed to be doing it," Jones said.

That was also reflected in the audit, drawing concerns that the charity did more harm than good.

Shabaglian hasn't directly responded to any of the allegations, including after asking Action News 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.

The audit report by The Avery Center suggested several next steps that need to happen if Made for Them is to go on.

Among them - greater transparency in how money is spent, increased training for staff, and canceling some services to better focus on what is working.