A Black Lives Matter activist has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison after being found guilty of funneling tens of thousands of donations from her organization into her personal bank account, allowing her to live an expensive lifestyle, according to reports.
The BBC reported that 23-year-old Xahra Saleem from London served as director of a charity benefiting disadvantaged young people in Bristol called Changing Your Mindset.
Saleem was also an organizer of a Black Lives Matter protest on June 7, 2020, in response to the death of George Floyd in the US
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During the protest, Saleem was seen as one of the protesters in a demonstration that ended with a statue of Edward Colston, a slave trader, being toppled and thrown into Bristol Harbour.
Before marching and taking down Colston’s statue, Saleem set up a fundraising page to buy personal protective equipment (PPE), the BBC said, to facilitate the BLM march, legally.
The march took place while restrictions were in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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She collected over £32,000, which is about US$39,000, and transferred the money to her personal bank accounts.
Between June 2020 and September 2021, Saleem spent the money on things like a new iPhone, hair and beauty appointments, clothes, Amazon orders and taxis, among other purchases.
Judge Michael Longman, who presided over Saleem’s trial, said she made more than 2,500 payments from her account during that time frame, describing it as a “continuous leak over a significant period of time”.
Saleem eventually pleaded guilty to fraud after abusing her position as director of Changing Your Mindset.
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Judge Longman told Saleem that when she raised money for Changing Your Mindset, it was a “worthy cause”.
But when she used the funds for her own benefit, not the benefit of the children, she was “funding a lifestyle” for herself that she could not “otherwise afford.”
“Since there was no business account to pay the money into, it was decided to pay it into your own account as an interim measure,” the judge said. “The others involved in the project trusted you to keep the funds safe until a better arrangement was made.
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“There should have been no reason why the money could not be transferred to that account, but the problems became apparent,” added Judge Longman. “The money was not transferred and you justified this failure.”
The BBC reported that in April 2021 a business account was set up but failed to transfer the money to it. He also claimed he was going to hand himself in to the police, but never followed through.
In June 2021, the court was told, Saleem told a friend about the fraud over WhatsApp, saying: “I’ve done something horrible, you can’t tell anyone until I get it right.”
The court also heard that Saleem’s phone contained messages of apology.
She told the court she suffered from psychosis, claiming it prevented her from thinking rationally.
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Saleem pleaded not guilty to the crime before she was found guilty and has said she feels remorse for her actions.
Since the funds were received, Changing Your Mindset has ceased operations.