Fourteen months after he was arrested upon landing at Denver International Airport, a former charity executive admitted Monday to taking money set aside to help the homeless.
During a 15-minute hearing in Denver District Court, Travis Singhaus, 48, pleaded guilty to attempted money laundering, a felony, and misdemeanor failure to file a tax return.
In exchange, the Denver District Attorney’s Office agreed to drop 16 other charges and ask that Singhaus be sentenced to probation rather than prison at a hearing June 5.
Singhaus must also pay $135,000 in restitution and turn over a Toyota 4Runner that he bought with money he tried to launder. Most of that money will go to The Denver Foundation.
“I have spoken with The Denver Foundation and they are amenable to” the plea agreement, Deputy District Attorney Danielle Sexton told Judge Jennifer Torrington on Monday. “Especially because it means that they are on the path to being made whole, to be able to get money back to the homeless population that Mr. Singhaus had been working with.”
Singhaus was arrested on the night of Jan. 9, 2022, by Department of Homeland Security officers and Denver police after returning to DIA from overseas. He was initially charged with eight felonies, including theft, charity fraud, forgery and criminal impersonation.
Prosecutors did not announce which charity they were accusing Singhaus of stealing $348,000 from. But in a November lawsuit, The Denver Foundation detailed how it had learned of Singhaus’ theft and passed its findings on to the government for investigation.
For three years between 2018 and 2021, the prominent nonprofit sent grant money to Singhaus’ charity, Impact Local. It gave $125,000 in 2019 and $140,000 the next year. By 2021, it was sending $10,000 monthly and bought Impact Local a $44,000 van.
But in August 2021, the foundation took a closer look at the IRS letter that Impact Local had provided as proof it was a legitimate nonprofit. And it found a forgery, its lawsuit says.
Singhaus’ purported charity, which also called itself Impact Locally and the Impact Network, was using the employer identification number of a different Denver nonprofit that was called the Impact Network before it shut down in 2018, The Denver Foundation determined.
The internal investigation that followed included interviews with two former Impact Local employees who told the foundation that Singhaus, the CEO, was spending The Denver Foundation’s grant money on personal expenses. That $44,000 for a van? It instead bought Singhaus the new Toyota 4Runner, the foundation was told.
The Denver Foundation suspended its monthly payments to Singhaus’ charity and, on Nov. 18, 2021, handed the results of its investigation over to the Attorney General’s Office. Within a day, that office had sent it to the District Attorney’s Office for criminal investigation.
The foundation is suing its insurance company, Philadelphia Indemnity, for refusing to cover the money it lost to Singhaus’ crimes. Philadelphia Indemnity denies wrongdoing. Initially filed in Denver District Court, the case has since been moved to a Denver federal court.
“The Denver Foundation is proud of its record of being a good steward of donor funds and that our internal controls identified this misconduct,” Dan Lee, its chief financial officer, said Monday. “It is unfortunate that funds were diverted that should have been used to support people experiencing homelessness in Denver. We are glad this case was prosecuted.”
Singhaus, meanwhile, had been working towards a plea agreement with the District Attorney’s Office for much of this year and his case was repeatedly delayed as a result.
“This is a very complex case that we are still working on very diligently,” Sexton said at a January hearing regarding a disagreement over the restitution amounts.
At a March 6 hearing, Singhaus attorney Matthew Schultz said his client had agreed to turn over the Toyota “that was purchased with some of the grant money” but needed time to talk with his family “about the reality of getting a substitute car” before doing so.
At Monday’s hearing, Schultz asked that Singhaus’ sentencing be delayed an unusually long time — nearly three months — so he can buy another vehicle. The judge agreed.