Non-profit trying to find middle ground in Justin French mess

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – The FBI raid on Justin French's consulting business in downtown Richmond raised eyebrows last month. As did his arrest a week later at the Richmond airport on 8 felonies. French owns more than a hundred properties in the city, and long before his troubles began, his consulting business got a nonprofit group that helps inner city kids off the ground.

Richmond Pro Cycling is now navigating some tough terrain, going round and round with the court of public opinion.

It's the city's first inner city youth cycling program. Richmond Pro Cycling has already touched the lives of hundreds of children. Craig Dodson is its founder. He takes elite level cyclists and pairs them up with children and disadvantaged adults as mentors.

"It's a little different. Left of center. No one else is really doing this, but it's been highly effective. We really do good work," said Craig Dodson.

He formed the idea three years ago and launched out his apartment, but he really got off the ground in April with some key help from Justin French's consulting firm.

French's company gave Dodson a 3300 square feet of space in exchange for prominent placement of French's logo ... Most noticeably on vehicles and gear worn by the cyclists.

"French Consulting Company was a company that reached out to say hey, we're sympathetic to what you guys are doing. We like what you guys are doing and here's some support to help you continue to do that," said Dodson.

A week after RPC moved into its building, French's office was raided. A week after that French was arrested.

Dodson's now stuck in the middle. He's worried about public opinion, but says his company is not a victim and he says he's confident people will know Richmond pro cycling is an independent organization.

"It's just business as usual for us. We have to move forward and keep providing good services for the Richmond community," he said.

For Dodson, he says it's just about the kids.

"To see them, the progression of them and the way that they've grown and developed as a function of that has been pretty amazing," Dodson added.

Dodson says at this time he has no plans to remove the French consulting logos from his nonprofit. He's waiting for the case to go to trial.

French is back in court in November on 8 charges including forging public documents. We've tried to French over the course of several weeks but he hasn't responded.

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