In addition to being an accused child sex trafficker, Black Lives Matter activist Charles Wade is a financial “scammer,” says a lawyer for a St. Louis real estate developer who lost more than $10,000 after Wade skipped town last year without paying rent.
By some estimates, Wade, a former stylist for Beyonce Knowles’ sister Solange, took in hundreds of thousands of dollars in online donations for a group called Operation Help or Hush (OHOH) that he co-founded in the wake of the Aug. 9, 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown. The group’s stated mission was to provide temporary housing for protesters in the St. Louis area.
Wade, 33, drew national attention earlier this month after The Daily Caller reported that he was arrested on April 25 on sex trafficking charges. Police in College Park, Md. say that Wade pimped out a 17-year-old girl using the website backpage.com. She told police that she gave Wade all of the money she was paid to have sex and that Wade knew she was only 17. (RELATED: Black Lives Matter Leader Charged With Pimping 17-Year-Old Girl)
Wade was slapped with seven charges and could face up to 25 years in prison. He denies the charges saying that the girl who says he was her pimp is lying and that he has been unfairly targeted by conservative “trolls.”
But the activist, who goes on trial on Friday, has a history of making false and deceptive statements according to Edward Khatskin, a Chicago-based attorney for Starke, Inc., the St. Louis real estate firm that rented to Wade.
Wade was put in touch with the company in late 2014 through a St. Louis real estate agent who is also active in the Black Lives Matter movement.
OHOH, which Wade co-founded with a woman named Tasha Burton, called for donations on its website and on Twitter to help fund the housing project.
In a now-deleted entry on its blog, OHOH offered “guaranteed free housing” for 90 days to activists working in the area. During that period they were required to perform 20 hours of community service each week. At the end of that stint, “participants are required to pay between $100-$250 a month…to remain in the apartment.”
“So how can you help?” the site asked. It then provided four ways for supporters to donate directly to OHOH: through the group’s PayPal account, through a service called Square Cash, by mailed check, or by sending digital gift cards on the web.
It is unclear exactly how much money was donated to OHOH since the group has not disclosed that information. But according to some reports, “hundreds of thousands of dollars” has flowed to OHOH.
Wade did pay some rent at the beginning of the lease. He paid one or two months worth of rent in cash, Khatskin told TheDC. Another month’s rent was paid through a PayPal account. But despite taking in so much in donations, Wade stopped paying rent on the four properties but did not move out. Khatskin ultimately filed suit for Starke, Inc. and moved to evict Wade, Burton and two other tenants.
All the while, Wade was seemingly taking in money for OHOH, which was not registered as a charity in the state of Missouri.
According to Khatskin, Wade has made numerous false claims about the case on social media.
A frequent Twitter user, Wade has claimed on the site that he settled the case. He’s also wrote in a now-deleted Aug. 25 tweet that “we came into court with all the rent we’d held.”
But Khatskin says that Wade never paid any of the money he owed after absconding and still owes the entire judgement. In fact, the lawyer says that after he filed the suit on behalf of Starke, Inc., Wade attempted to reverse the lone PayPal payment he made to the landlord.
The real estate firm, whose owner is liberal, according to Khatskin, was able to prevent that from happening by contacting PayPal.
Khatskin also says that when a courier first attempted to serve Wade with papers in August ordering him to appear at trial (Wade was in Maryland by that time), he falsely claimed that he was not Charles Wade.
“But it was him,” Khatskin told TheDC.
Wade also misled his supporters and social media followers by concocting a false explanation for why transcripts of the trial were sealed. Wade claimed that the judge sealed the documents because the case was “high security.” He also warned that if anyone attempted to obtain audio of the proceeding “the court will immediately have record of your identity.”
But Khatskin says that the documents were sealed only because they included personal information such as social security numbers.
Wade also provided testimony in which he admitted to something that he did not disclose to his supporters: that he and his co-founder Tasha Burton were using donations to pay for their own room and board.
For Khatskin, that raises questions about what other personal expenses Wade covered using donations to OHOH.
“If this story prevents at least one person from falling victim to this scammer, I think it will will have done a service,” Khatskin told TheDC.
Wade also made misleading statements following the Maryland arrest. In a statement denying those charges, he referred to his arrest in January on 3rd degree grand theft charges. He claimed that the case was closed without him being found guilty or accepting a plea bargain — a statement he seemingly made to show that he did nothing wrong.
But government records show that Wade entered a deferred prosecution program in the Miami case several days after his arrest in Maryland.
It is unclear if Wade mentioned an earlier arrest when he entered the deferred prosecution program.
Wade was detained in his hometown of Austin, Tex. on Aug. 10, 2014, just days before he would start a new career as a social justice activist. He was charged with making false statements to police. TheDC has requested an incident report for that case but has not yet received it.