Fight Between Two WeHo HIV Groups Opens a Dirty Window

A conflict between two West Hollywood organizations for HIV positive gay men has become more heated with Kevin Stalter, former CEO of the Thrive Tribe, filing a lawsuit alleging that the Tribe fired him after he confessed that he is addicted to methamphetamine. Since his firing in July, Stalter has created a competing non-profit called the Brotherhood Impact Fund. It officially opened its offices at 8704 Santa Monica Blvd. this weekend in a space whose rent is being paid by one of the people indicted by the U.S. District Attorney last year for allegedly participating in a ring established to launder money from illegal drug sales.

Left to right, Ben Ho of Pacific Lyons Care, WeHo Mayor Lauren Meister and Brotherhood Impact Fund CEO Kevin Stalter at the fund's Friday opening
Left to right, Ben Ho of Pacific Lyons Care, WeHo Mayor Lauren Meister and Brotherhood Impact Fund CEO Kevin Stalter at the fund’s Friday opening

In his lawsuit, filed Oct. 6 in L.A Superior Court, Stalter makes other allegations, including that the Tribe violated federal law by treating him initially as an independent contractor and not paying him overtime, that he was subject to harassment by several former board members and that the Tribe board mismanaged its own finances. Several former board members, in an opinion piece published in WEHOville, alleged that Stalter mismanaged the organization by failing to provide an accurate accounting of Thrive Tribe expenses made by him, including money used to pay for his rent, furniture, housekeeper, utilities and entertainment, as well as food and alcohol consumed at his home on Kings Road. They also alleged that Stalter failed to produce an annual budget until he was threatened with having funding ended. Other Thrive Tribe board members have said that Stalter was fired for his acrimonious dealings with employees and others and not for his drug addiction.

The Thrive Tribe has asked the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department to investigate the possibility that Stalter illegally downloaded the Tribe’s database, which contains the names of and other information about its members, the majority of whom are HIV positive. Shortly after Stalter’s firing, the Brotherhood launched a “secret” or private Facebook group, some of whose unsuspecting members were those of the Thrive Tribe’s “secret” group on Facebook. Detective Kevin Hom of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station said he is investigating the allegation and currently is analyzing information provided by a cyber investigator hired by the Thrive Tribe.

Stalter confirmed to WEHOville at one of the Brotherhood opening events this weekend that the organization’s rent is being paid by Pacific Lyons Care. PLC maintains offices at the Brotherhood space, one of which is used by Edgar Romero, Stalter’s fiancé, who has been hired as PLC’s director of healthcare services.

PLC lists its address as Santa Ana, and a call to the telephone number on its website gives Brotherhood Impact Fund and PLC as options for callers. PLC is a case management service. It identifies itself as a “’one stop shop’ that integrates conventional medical services, and doctor-recommended complementary medications, with a ‘safety net’ of case management and support groups for those living with cancer, hepatitis C, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and other medical conditions.”

Stalter told WEHOville that the primary shareholder in PLC is Ben Ho, who attended the Brotherhood’s office opening on Friday and was photographed there with Stalter and Mayor Lauren Meister. Ho, who is known formally as Benjamin Nguyen Ho, also goes under the name Xiem Van Trung. He was a defendant in a lawsuit brought by AIDS Healthcare Foundation in 2013 that alleged his Irvine-based Rochester Enterprises Inc. and BGR Marketing LLC operated a case management service that steered HIV and AIDS patients away from AHF, which operates its own pharmacies, and into other pharmacies that gave Ho’s companies cash as kickbacks. Such kickbacks are illegal under various laws, including a federal law concerning those whose medications are covered by Medicaid, Medicaid or other government programs. AHF’s lawsuit led to the closing of Rochester Enterprises and BGR Marketing. Ho earlier had been convicted for other fraudulent activity and was sentenced in 1998 to two years in state prison.

saigon-national-bankBut the biggest case in which Ho has been involved was that filed by the U.S. District Attorney for the Central District of California late last year after an investigation called “Operation Phantom Bank.” That investigation resulted in three indictments of a total of 20 people, including Ho, for involvement in narcotics trafficking and illegally laundering money from countries that included the United States, China, Cambodia, Liechtenstein, Mexico and Switzerland through Saigon National Bank in Westminster, which since has changed its name to California International Bank. At the center of the schemes, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, was Tu Chau “Bill” Lu, 71, of Fullerton, who from 2009 through January 2015 was president and CEO of Saigon National Bank. The U.S. Attorney alleges that Lu had negotiated with members of Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel to fund a purchase of the bank so that they could launder millions of dollars a month through it.

Stalter did not respond to calls from WEHOville for comment for this story.  He joined the Thrive Tribe in December 2013 as executive director, reporting to its founder Julian Goldstein, also known as Gary Goldstein. Goldstein is a defendant in Stalter’s lawsuit. Goldstein stirred controversy of his own for pressuring Thrive Tribe members to shift their drug prescriptions to pharmacies with which he was connected. Goldstein funded the launch of the Thrive Tribe and stepped down in October 2014 as CEO and since has focused on making a documentary. He was replaced by Stalter. Since his firing Stalter has remained on the L.A. County Commission on HIV. He also was appointed to the California Office of AIDS Stakeholder Advisory Committee.

EDITOR’S NOTE: In the spirit of full public disclosure, WEHOville wants its readers to know that its publisher and editor, Henry (Hank) Scott, was an early member of the Thrive Tribe and served briefly on its board of directors several years ago.

5 1 vote
Article Rating

34 Comments
Newest
Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Nir Zilberman
Nir Zilberman
2 years ago

So Sad, but NOT surprised.
This is so bad, a city of “PRIDE”?
Where and what is our true pride in WEHO?
What kind of people we becoming ?

Like I always said, When you change NOTHING, Nothing change.

Michael
Michael
2 years ago

It’s almost a year later. Has there been an update on the situation?

A Concerned Citizen
A Concerned Citizen
3 years ago

@Earl, good point. I guess I glossed over that. It makes the alleged drug use irrelevant.

Earl Eason
Earl Eason
3 years ago

@Jayson. What you’re saying confuses me. The story says: “Stalter was fired for his acrimonious dealings with employees and others and not for his drug addiction.” So what difference does it make if drug addiction is protected? Also, why isn’t anyone talking about the fact that Stalter did a deal with a guy indicted by the U.S. Attorney General for running a money laundering scheme to help drug dealers like the Sinaloa drug cartel. WeHo has enough eccentrics. We don’t need our own El Chapo (and I don’t think that senor liked gays anyway).

Jayson
Jayson
3 years ago

In CA and MANY other states the law does recognize substance abuse as a disability with the same protections as my HIV. If it affected his work he would have been given proper warnings and sent to treatment etc. According to the complaint he was given raises and bonuses. In fact, one of the authors of the original article was actually the Treasurer of the Tribe for 3 months when they accused him of taking money etc. Why would an organization give someone a bonus and then a raise if all of this was true?

A Concerned Citizen
A Concerned Citizen
3 years ago

Jayson, I never said that it “means they should go around telling everyone.” In fact, I said “I wasn’t condoning the violation of his privacy.” Your point is well taken. Not sure if mine was. My point was that people shouldn’t blindly defend him from being terminated, just because he helped them in their time of need. Especially if they don’t know what was happening behind the scenes. On a separate note, lets assume his “disability” is a drug addiction (I haven’t read the lawsuit). Do addicts have a right to keep their jobs? Can that really be considered a… Read more »

Jayson
Jayson
3 years ago

Concerned Citizen – Whether it was during work or not, and no one knows, it doesn’t mean they should go around telling everyone. See Anonymous above (8:45pm Wednesday) with members saying they were told by Julian. He should know NOTHING unless his employer “The Board” is talking as WehoVille admits in its own article. Employers could say anything about any ex employee with no regard for their privacy and that is why the laws exist. I am not defending Kevin or whatever happened I AM shocked by how his former employer has handled this mess.

A Concerned Citizen
A Concerned Citizen
3 years ago

Jayson, I wasn’t condoning the violation of his privacy. I was stating that it is now known, and he has admitted to having a meth problem (at least, as quoted in this article).

Regardless of that, what I *was* saying is that drug use, if it happens during working hours, or affects one’s job performance is grounds for termination, in most jobs (it definitely is in mine). So if that is what happened, I don’t see how people can defend him from being terminated.

Jayson
Jayson
3 years ago

So who did? It was not in his lawsuit either. It says “disability.”
WehoVille also says: “Other Thrive Tribe board members have said that Stalter was fired for his acrimonious dealings with employees and others and not for his drug addiction.” That proves Board Members were talking about “why” he was fired to the publication. Again, ANY discussion of reasons for someones dismissal are illegal. And who is the source for this quote above: “..after he confessed that he is addicted to methamphetamine.” Who said he confessed?

Henry (Hank) Scott
Admin
3 years ago
Reply to  Jayson

WEHOville does not reveal the identity of confidential sources. And when one files a lawsuit against his employer, certain protections are no longer in place.

Jayson
Jayson
3 years ago

Concerned, even if he was having a substance abuse problem of ANY kind there are laws to protect the employee from having ANY disability being disclosed by their employer. I had my HIV status disclosed many times. Substance abuse is also a protected class in CA and many other states. The gay community fought against employers for years on this issue of employee retaliation. Given the effect substance abuse has had on our community as a result of AIDS, you would think an HIV non-profit would have been less public about letting the whole world know their “version” of what… Read more »

Henry (Hank) Scott
Admin
3 years ago
Reply to  Jayson

The “substance abuse problem” was not disclosed to WEHOville by the Thrive Tribe.

Concerned
Concerned
3 years ago
Reply to  Jayson

Mr Stalter was not exactly keeping his issues a secret. When people ‘party’ with other people, the cat is out of the bag – period. People in our little town are no different from anywhere else – they love gossip. You never know who sees you walk out of a 12 step meeting and who they tell or who parties or kisses and tells. Word gets around and the only issue is if you are ashamed of what you are doing or you are doing something that can put your job in jeopardy, then the cards are dealt

A Concerned Citizen
A Concerned Citizen
3 years ago

I’m not privy to the inner workings of the Tribe, but even if Kevin had been doing a good job, and helping a lot of people (who are understandably very grateful), this does not mean that he couldn’t have been on a downslide, which people weren’t aware of. It also doesn’t mean he wasn’t misusing funds, or doing other shady things, while people were still being helped. Once again, things people might not have been aware of. And he admitted to being addicted to meth. If this affected his job performance, or if he was doing this while on the… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
3 years ago

I didn’t know what to think about this all when it first happened… I mean I’m just a lowly Tribe member. Kevin did my orientation and told me I could get away from AHF and get free Blue plan. Edgar helped me get set up. I didn’t know Kevin well cause when I went to events he was always working. Three of my best friends I met in the Tribe (2 poz and 1 negative). I had not heard from Julian in over a year and a week after Kevin was let go he called to ask me about my… Read more »

34
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x