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Settlement Between State, Santa-Monica Based Lithuanian Foundation to Help Needy in Homeland

Bob Kronovetrealty
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By Jorge Casuso

July 17, 2020 -- Disadvantaged Lithuanian children and seniors in the former Soviet-occupied country will receive about $7 million in charitable contributions under a settlement agreement between the state and the Santa Monica-based Lithuanian Assistance Foundation.

The settlement ends an eight-year-long probe into allegations that Foundation Board members failed to keep proper records and "entered into self-dealing transactions" involving three Santa Monica properties, according to the settlement agreement.

Under the agreement, the Foundation will be dissolved and $7.2 million in damages will be paid to the California Community Foundation, which will disburse the funds "for the education of disadvantaged Lithuanian orphans and children in the Vilnius region."

The funds also will be used for charitable work in Zelva village, including “a trade school, teacher training or seminary, financial assistance for needy students with above average grades, and senior citizens,” according to the settlement.

According to the agreement, both the foundation and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra mutually agreed to resolve the matter “to avoid the expense, uncertainty, and inconvenience of litigation or other administrative action.”

The Foundation -- which was co-founded by local Realtor Albinas Markevicius in 1992 -- denies the allegations.

The Foundation contends that the transactions were unique, that fair market value was paid and that the intended beneficiaries received the proceeds "except as limited due to the Attorney General’s investigation," according to the settlement.

"Since 2012, the Foundation fully cooperated with the state hoping to amicably resolve the inquiry," the group said in a statement.

"Even though an Internal Revenue Service audit found that all filings were properly completed, it became apparent that extending the inquiry even further would be counterproductive to the foundation’s mission of helping Lithuanians," the statement said.

The Attorney General disagrees with the group's contentions.

Since it was founded in 1992 -- two years after Lithuania regained its independence from the former Soviet Union -- the Foundation has funded numerous charitable programs.

They include funding medical procedures for disadvantaged Lithuanians, helping finance housing assistance for survivors of Siberian deportations and providing numerous scholarships for Lithuanian students, Foundation officials said.

Markevicius and his family fled Lithuania in 1944 during World War II after the Nazis and Soviets occupied the country, living as a teen in refugee camps before emigrating to Canada and, eventually, the U.S.

The family moved to Santa Monica, where Markevicius established the real estate firm Roque & Mark Co. in 1965 and co-founded the California Lithuanian Credit Union in 1967.

In addition to his work as a philanthropist and leader in the Lithuanian-American community, Markevicius served on the Santa Monica College General Advisory Board for 15 years.

He is currently involved in charitable initiatives with Upward Bound House and a community outreach program to aid seniors during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Foundation.

In 2013, Markevicius received the Medal of Diplomacy from the Lithuanian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

His daughter Zina Markevicius, who has contributed articles to The Lookout, also was a member of the Lithuanian Assistance Foundation Board.

Among her charitable initiatives was launching a program to send books and educational materials donated by the Santa Monica School District to students in Lithuanian villages.

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