UPDATED: Ex-head of Lawrence shelter agrees to $6 million settlement to avoid trial

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Jan. 13—BOSTON — Attorney General Maura Healey has reached a $6 million settlement with the former head of Casa Nueva Vida homeless shelters in Lawrence and Boston, her office announced Thursday.

Manuel Duran was charged with lying to the state and funneling money to himself "all while falsely certifying compliance with state regulations designed to detect such improper self-dealing," Healey said.

The consent judgment, filed and entered in Suffolk Superior Court on Wednesday, resolves a civil lawsuit filed by Healey's office less than four months ago against Duran, the former executive Director, chief executive officer, president and board member of Casa Nueva Vida (House of New Life.)

A Casa Nueva Vida shelter is listed at 57 Jackson St. in Lawrence.

Healey's complaint said Duran funneled approximately $2.29 million in state funds to himself through his illegal actions, but because this case was brought under the state's False Claims Act, which allows for up to treble damages — meaning triple the damages — Duran will pay the state $6 million, she said.

Under the terms of the Healey's settlement, in addition to the required $6 million payment, Duran is permanently banned from working with Casa Nueva Vida; accepting any position as a fiduciary at any Massachusetts public charity; working on or with any business connected to the state or a state entity or any business that receives funding from the state; and from forming a separate entity or operating under a different name in order to violate Healey's consent judgment.

Healey's lawsuit alleged Duran violated the Massachusetts False Claims Act by making false statements and material omissions on documents submitted to the state in which he failed to disclose his related party transactions, Healey said.

Duran signed leases on Casa Nueva Vida's behalf for investment properties he owned, charged Casa Nueva Vida substantially above fair rental value, and directed Casa Nueva Vida to utilize funding it received from the state to pay for improvements to properties he owned, Healey said.

"Manuel Duran abused his position of trust to pad his pockets with millions of dollars that should have gone to families in need," Healey said. "Our office moved quickly to reach today's settlement which holds him accountable for the harm done and returns nearly three times amount of money he stole from the state."

Thomas Dwyer Jr., Duran's attorney, said his client is remorseful and will sell six properties to pay the settlement, including three currently being leased by Casa Nueva Vida. But he said no families will be displaced.

Starting in March 2003, Duran served in various leadership roles at Casa Nueva Vida that allowed him to control the shelter's day-to-day operations, as well as its real estate investments and leases, according to a statement released by Healey.

Healey said from fiscal year 2014 through 2019, when Casa Nueva Vida was at least 92% state funded, Duran submitted documents to the state that failed to disclose Duran's own personal or business transactions with Casa Nueva Vida, known as "related party transactions."

Under state law, Casa Nueva Vida was required to disclose any related party transactions to assure the state that it was engaging in transactions on an arm's length basis and was spending state funds in a fair and reasonably prudent manner, according to Healey's statement.

By not disclosing information regarding his related party transactions with Casa Nueva Vida, Duran made it impossible for the state to evaluate the shelter's continued eligibility as a contractor and enabled Casa Nueva Vida to receive $33 million in state funding under a contract with the Department of Housing and Community Development for emergency homeless shelter services, Healey said.

In September, Duran was also criminally indicted by a Suffolk County Grand Jury in connection with stealing from Casa Nueva Vida and lying under oath to hide his self-dealing.

The criminal case against Duran is ongoing.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.

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