NEW YORK (AP) – The founder of Project Veritas, a conservative nonprofit known for its hidden camera footage, is being investigated by a suburban New York City attorney’s office in the recent fallout push away from the group over allegations that he abused workers and misappropriated organization funds.
The Westchester County District Attorney’s Office confirmed Friday that it was “investigating” matters related to James O’Keefe, who was suspended in February and later fired as chairman and CEO. Project Veritas board of directors said it spent “too much fundraising money” on personal luxuries.
Jin Whang, a spokesman for District Attorney Mimi Rocah, declined to discuss the subject or details of the investigation or what possible charges O’Keefe might face. Whang warned that investigations can yield mixed results that do not necessarily lead to criminal charges.
News of the investigation was first reported by The Nation.
O’Keefe’s attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, blamed the investigation on “disgruntled former Project Veritas employees who had a problem with their CEO using too many auto services to fund fundraisers that paid their salaries.”
“The new CEO of Project Veritas informed us that the investigation was closed,” Lichtman said. “If not, we will take it down in court.”
In a statement, CEO Hannah Giles said: “Project Veritas has not opened a possible investigation that the Westchester District Attorney’s Office may be conducting regarding James O’Keefe. However, PV is cooperating with the authorities to the extent required by law.”
in 2010, O’Keefe founded Project Veritas, which identifies itself as a news organization. Recent IRS filings show the company had revenue of over $20 million in 2021. Over the years, his hidden cameras have embarrassed news outlets, labor organizations and Democratic politicians.
The organization sued O’Keefe in May, accusing him of breaching his contract for “incredibly troubling workplace and financial misconduct,” including yelling at colleagues, exposing employees to obscene messages and hiring employees to run errands to do for him, like picking up laundry and cleaning his boat.
According to the organization, O’Keefe’s lavish expenses included: $10,000 on a helicopter ride from New York to Maine; more than $150,000 in private auto services over an 18-month period; and expensive stays in luxurious hotel suites while other employees were forced to stay in budget accommodation.
According to the lawsuit, the Project Veritas board had intended to reinstate O’Keefe from his suspension “with appropriate safeguards,” but eventually resigned in May after alleging in media interviews that the organization fired him to work at a pharmaceutical company appease its coverage of COVID-19.
Last year, two Florida residents pleaded guilty sell a diary and other items from President Joe Biden’s daughter to Project Veritas for $40,000. As part of his investigation, the FBI searched the group’s offices in Mamaroneck, New York and the homes of some employees in 2021.
Neither Project Veritas nor its employees have been charged with a crime, and the group has said its activities are protected by law First amendment.