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Grand Rapids non-profit seeks millions in compensation after alleged fraud from former CEO, finance director

The suit claims that the former CEO and finance director embezzled over $1 million and distributed it to themselves, family and friends.
Credit: Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — A Grand Rapids non-profit is suing its former CEO and Director of Finance and Administration for millions of dollars after they allegedly embezzled money.

Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative (ELNC) filed a complaint against former CEO Dr. Nkechy Ekere Ezeh and former Director of Finance and Administration Sharon Killebrew asking for over $3 million in compensation following the alleged embezzlement.

The suit claims that Dr. Ezeh embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars and distributed it to herself, her friends and her family members. The suit also alleges Killebrew paid herself $1 million over nearly six years without ELNC's board knowing about it.

ELNC says they launched an internal investigation in 2023 following a whistleblower's complaint about Dr. Ezeh.

"The investigation revealed, among other things, that Dr. Ezeh had used a web of interrelated organizations to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to herself, as well as to her family and friends—money that should have been used to support at-risk youth. But the wrongdoing extended far beyond Dr. Ezeh. For example, Sharon Killebrew, who handled ELNC’s bookkeeping, paid herself nearly $1,000,000 between June 2017 to April 2023 without ELNC Board’s knowledge," the court document reads.

The lawsuit claims that Dr. Ezeh made payments to a consulting company which she owned while she was in the position of CEO at ELNC. It also goes on to claim that Killebrew was receiving additional payments unknown to ELNC's board through Killebrew's contracting company.

ELNC is suing the two individuals for nearly $3.5 million in damages and compensation.

ELNC alleges that Dr. Ezeh is guilty of embezzlement, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and civil conspiracy. They also allege that Killebrew is guilty of embezzlement, fraud, and civil conspiracy.

The complaint was submitted to the Kent County Circuit Court on Friday, Sept. 15.

Kent County Prosecuting Attorney told 13 ON YOUR SIDE that there are currently no criminal charges against Dr. Ezeh and Killebrew.

The Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative has been funded by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, the Michigan Department. of Education, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and others.

You can read the entire complaint from ELNC against Dr. Ezeh and Killebrew here.

Editor's note: In a previous version of this story, 13 ON YOUR SIDE erroneously reported ELNC was a non-profit initiative of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. ELNC is funded through grants from various organizations.  


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