The Silicon Valley Voice

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Santa Clara Vanguard Accused of Operating Illegal Bingo Operation

Santa Clara Vanguard makes millions of dollars a year operating bingo out of its building on Space Park Drive near Highway 101. It’s a cash cow that’s helped support the nonprofit for decades and allowed hundreds of young artists to perform at the nation’s highest levels without spending thousands of dollars to do so.

But potential office mismanagement has put the Santa Clara institution in a position where it may be breaking the law and operating an illegal gambling operation.

In a letter dated Sept. 11, 2023, former Vanguard Board Member and Treasurer Richard Lesher asked the Santa Clara City Council and specifically Mayor Lisa Gillmor, who sits on Vanguard’s Board of Directors as an Honorary Member, to take action. Lesher includes documentation that shows Vanguard is not a charity in good standing with the California Department of Justice.

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In a memo to Vanguard dated Aug. 25, 2023, the State Department of Justice says Vanguard is “delinquent” with the Registry of Charitable Trusts. Further public records show that Vanguard did not submit a financial audit for 2019, nor did it file with the Registry of Charitable Trusts in 2020 or 2021. As a result, Vanguard has not been registered as a state Charitable Trust since 2021.

“An organization that is listed as delinquent is not in good standing and is prohibited from engaging in conduct for which registration is required, including soliciting or disbursing charitable funds,” writes the Department of Justice.

Lesher says that Vanguard’s inability to solicit donations, combined with the cancelation of the 2023 season, has left the organization in a situation where it could be breaking the law.

California law states that only certain organizations are allowed to operate bingo games (CA Penal Code Sections 326.3 and 326.5) – most specifically ones that are considered tax-exempt under federal law. By not maintaining its charitable designation, Vanguard may be in violation.

What’s more, there are strict laws governing how the funds from bingo are spent. Specifically, that money only be distributed to certain parties and that does not include bingo employees.

Vanguard bingo pays its bingo staff. Lesher says that in the past, the money from membership dues and donations was used to offset the employee costs, keeping Vanguard compliant. However, without those two revenue streams, Lesher believes that Vanguard’s continued operation of bingo has placed it in violation of state law.

Vanguard’s management has been in upheaval over the past few years, with several changeovers in leadership. Most recently, on Sept. 8, Russell Gavin was announced as the new CEO of Vanguard.

He talked to The Weekly about Lesher’s comments. Gavin says that the State’s website is not up to date. He admits that Vanguard is not considered a charity in good standing at the moment but says “delinquent” is not an accurate depiction of the current status. Gavin says the state recognizes that the organization is taking steps to return to compliance and the organization’s status with the state is considered in process.

He also says that he has been “assured” by Vanguard’s lawyers that all the bingo operations are compliant with state law.

The Weekly has been following the current state of Vanguard, including the cancelation of the 2023 season. We will have more details in the coming weeks.

Documentation:
2020-11 an independent audit was required
2021-09 DELINQUENCY NOTICE AND WARNING OF ASSESSMENT
2021-10 ADDITIONAL DOCS REQUIRED DELINQUENCY
2023-08 FAILURE TO REGISTER NOTICE

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51 Comments
  1. Alum 6 months ago
    Reply

    Wholly support the Santa Clara Vanguard organization. Richard Lesher’ s actions are surreptitiously done with the aim of taking over control of the organization, as a spurned alumni rejected for a position within the organization. He is sick in the head.

    • rodicus@hotmail.com 2 months ago
      Reply

      Lesher presents valid concerns. He’s a bit of a blowhard but he’s right. VMAPA is violating California State law regarding it’s .org status and illegally operating bingo. When the bill comes due, it won’t be pretty.

  2. Steve Noll 6 months ago
    Reply

    Unfortunately, Richard Lesher combines just enough truth to make his points without having the full picture. He is an agent of chaos with his own personal grudge that we have seen a lot of this year. Case in point, Richard knows how the Bingo program stays in compliance but does not share that data in this article because he does not have the right to see the organization’s books. VMAPA would not have announced its comeback for 2024 a few days ago (09/08/23) if there was no plan to be fully compliant. Bad article by the Voice making unnecessary noise for an organization that has helped educate 1000’s of kids.

    Sincerely, 1 of 6000 alumni

  3. another alum 6 months ago
    Reply

    As usual, our own fellow adult SCV alum are drilling down on personal attacks when an alum says something publicly or privately that challenges them. I and many others have been on the receiving end of such treatment both as a young member and an adult. No one should be surprised, as this is the exact treatment they lobbed at members for years to get them to learn and perform shows, and even win championships. SCV is not alone in treating dissenting voices this way, as many drum corps have a history of doing so, but we are unique in our cruelty and exactitude.

    Alum have threatened violence over this information. Alum have retaliated against and accosted each other. Alum have been hurting each other and the young marching members for decades. This is nothing new. Don’t they understand that public statements like the others here don’t help their cause, but in fact make us all look worse?

  4. Alum 6 months ago
    Reply

    The “violence” referenced was a sarcastic joke on social media in which the author quickly stated they were clearly not serious and other alum recommended not joking about that.

    • another alum 6 months ago
      Reply

      Thank you for confirming that it happened publicly, I guess?
      Whistleblowers don’t take threats of any kind lightly as well they shouldn’t. As stated above, this “sarcastic joke” threat aside, alum have accosted and retaliated against each other in the past. Nothing new.

  5. Alum 6 months ago
    Reply

    The retaliation referenced is based in 1 report of a member having been “verbally accosted”, 1 case of an alum declining to talk to another alum after discovering that person had been working with Richard Lesher and not taking discussions seriously, and a hypothetical risk of retaliation based on a now-resolved matter of the whistleblowing process being set up to go through an independent third party. A house of cards was built on this very thin basis.

    • Another Alum 6 months ago
      Reply

      No. This is based on numerous reports of retaliation and actual instances of physical intimidation among alum. This is not referring to members. And these examples go beyond those described above. It’s a historical pattern, not just a few recent instances that can be explained away.

      • Don Neidert 6 months ago
        Reply

        Just hope it doesn’t end up like our local bingo game. One of the workers was skimming money from the proceeds. When confronted by the head of the bingo operations, the worker shot and killed him.

  6. Longtime Santa Clara resident 6 months ago
    Reply

    Richard Lesher is notorious for being completely nonsensical and unbalanced. His statements about SCV are crazy. What’s happened? The organization is behind on some paperwork. I’ve heard the audits have been completed and the paperwork filed. This will be cleared up shortly and the Silicon Valley Voice will have egg on its face. Erika Towne, please be more thorough on your reporting moving forward, and avoid the loons. 😉

  7. Alum 6 months ago
    Reply

    It is absolute quicksand to engage with these people who are angry at not getting the jobs they wanted within the organization and who are off. Any push back or reaction to their inflammatory rhetoric is labeled victim blaming, retaliation, further abuse, any resistance to that characterization is further used to inflame, any data about the organization is weaponized to further embarrass it. Far warning to anyone doing the lord’s work, any attempt to resolve matters with them worsens things for the organization.

  8. Freelancer 6 months ago
    Reply

    To me this all seems quite simple… The fact that the Vanguard organization had financial difficulties is well documented. The 990’s are out for the world to see. Simple fact is they made bad financial decisions that cost the organization millions of dollars and ultimately the 2023 season. Also it is well known that former bingo manager stole a large sum of money as well. Also as fact is that the organization made numerous errors that ultimately landed them in hot water with the California DOJ. All of that is proven fact and is what it is. Now.. Richard Lesher alleges that the organization is still in breach and thus operating illegally and the organization claims they have rectified said issues and are now compliant. All is well and it’s merely an admin backlog at the DOJ.

    My suggestion is simple… Prove it. Come out publicly and let the world see that proof of compliance. If the Vanguard organization IS in fact compliant, let’s see that proof. If you’ve nothing to hide, that really shouldn’t be that hard.

    My issue is that last year, Vanguard KNEW they were in trouble financially. They KNEW there was a very high likelihood that they would not come out. They’d already killed their cadet corps after massively overspending on a new food truck and by numerous member accounts who were on the road with the corps in 2022, had struggled to feed the corps. They KNEW all of this yet carried on with the 2023 winter season as if all was well. They held audition camps and TOOK KIDS MONEY absolutely KNOWING they probably weren’t coming out in 2023… which is exactly what happened.

    From where I stand, it looks to me as if history is repeating itself here.

    • Longtime Santa Clara Resident 5 months ago
      Reply

      Richard Lesher, stop hiding and own your comments.

  9. Santa Clara Resident 6 months ago
    Reply

    Looks like a bunch of angry alums shooting the messenger? Mr. Lesher has offered his assistance to this organization since the demise of the previous CEO. Thank you Silicon Valley Voice for making this public, as they are taking away funds from Santa Clara nonprofits that really need the donations. Appears they have been running a “charity” bingo to pad their own bank accounts. Shame on you Santa Clara Vanguard.

    • Longtime Santa Clara Resident 5 months ago
      Reply

      False. Richard Lesher has been attacking and threatening the board for months, way before the previous CEO left. Your comments are completely unfounded and wrong. Their books have been audited and you have no right to make up a false narrative.

  10. The Richard Lesher Conspiracy Club 6 months ago
    Reply

    Richard and Meghan Yankee (who is working hand in hand to satisfy Richard’s organizational bloodlust but for her own reasons) should adopt different writing styles.

    You both have numerous tells related to consistent and repetitive use of bad grammar. One need only look at material the world knows you’ve written (and you’ve left a near infinite trail of word vomit on the Internet) for a comparison of style.

    You’re both posting on here in your defense under the guise of a neutral third-party. Get a hobby. Other than this one.

    Looking at you, Freelancer and Another Alum.

    • Megan de Roiz Yankee 6 months ago
      Reply

      I’m actually glad you called me out. It gives readers a chance to assess my writing and intentions for themselves:
      https://www.maasin.net/blog/open-letter-to-the-drum-corps-community-megan-de-roiz-yankee

  11. The Richard Lesher Conspiracy Club 6 months ago
    Reply

    Enter the millennial — it’s all about me! Richard’s narcissism and your endless self promotion … like peas and carrots.

  12. SCVfan 6 months ago
    Reply

    Well, if you can’t refute the allegations, attack & dox the messenger.
    Shame.

    • The Richard Lesher Conspiracy Club 6 months ago
      Reply

      SCVfan, I accuse you of abusing small animals.

      Per Richard: “My suggestion is simple… Prove it. Come out publicly and let the world see that proof of compliance.”

      So refute the allegation publicly with proof that you don’t.

      Until then— shame!

  13. Alum 6 months ago
    Reply

    The lord’s work above meaning trying to deal with them. They themselves blew up good faith attempts at that due to prioritizing plans to try to take over control. The report was made after working with the org for 2 years trying to get a certain job and not getting the job desired.

  14. Alum 6 months ago
    Reply

    Richard Lesher is a certifiable loon who has been desperately trying to use his former position as a board member (which he held only briefly, and 15 years ago!!) to make himself seem more intelligent and important than he is. He thinks he knows what he is talking about and thinks he is some kind of a hero to the drum corps community, but he is well known in Vanguard circles and the greater drum corps community as an embarrassing and irrelevant fool. He is truly a toxic person and in the opinion of THIS Santa Clara Vanguard alumnus, he should be banned from setting foot in their corps hall ever again under penalty of arrest, banned from attending all DCI-sanctioned competitions where Vanguard is in attendance going forward, and also banned from all public Santa Clara Vanguard and private Vanguard alumni social media pages. He is persona non grata in Vanguard alumni circles, and anyone with any sense in their head who associates with him should run for the hills. I can’t understand his obsession with trying to destroy an organization he claims to love. I have nothing to gain OR lose by writing any of this – I have no current connections to the organization other than being an alumnus, but I have seen the damage Mr. Lesher has done over the past year and it disgusts me. He has spread lies and disinformation so far and wide, none of it can ever be put back in the box, and it’s impossible for nearly anyone to know the real truth. The fact that he has a small but very vocal cult following of equally toxic alumni is even more despicable to me – they actually think he IS telling the truth. Pathetic. Please ignore this entire article. If you look up the very To Lesher in the Urban Dictionary, this is what it says: To Lesher is to speak with authority on 100% of a problem while only understanding <5% of the problem. Leshering describes the actions of an incompetent, poor leader who is so completely misinformed and emboldened by the misinformation, they believe they're actually a smart and powerful leader. TRUTH, and kudos to whoever added that definition!

  15. Yoikes 6 months ago
    Reply

    *we do have completely different individuals using the same handle here. This is a very local publication clearly without super sophisticated commenting controls

  16. Jo. 6 months ago
    Reply

    from just reading the article, sounds like someone has an axe to grind not whistle to blow.

  17. Alum3 6 months ago
    Reply

    Wishing these named alum who are dedicating countless hours to denigrating anything and everything (here and on other portals) – and who have more than obviously been endlessly endlessly endlessly depressive for a long time – are able find time and other venues to be happy. Go for a walk, have some fun, laugh, smile. Find positivity. Carve out protected time and focus for fun (that does not center around ego but just fun) – doing so is not contrary to or in tension with helping future members or with holding the org’s feet to the fire, and it doesn’t have to be the only thing you do. Find a tractable, helpful way to do good, be upfront, and don’t game it. You are indeed family. Families can be tense and f’d up and still have bonds.

  18. Rebecca Bunch 5 months ago
    Reply

    It’s giving “crazy ex girlfriend” energy. Recommend RL and MY read this book but swap out romantic obsession for vanguard obsession: “Unrequited: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Romantic Obsession” by Lisa A. Phillips

  19. Rebecca Bunch 5 months ago
    Reply

    It’s giving “crazy ex girlfriend” energy. Recommend RL and MY read this book but swap out romantic obsession for vanguard obsession: “Unrequited: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Romantic Obsession” by Lisa A. Phillips

  20. Alum4 5 months ago
    Reply

    Hey! Sorry, but I’m an Alum, too! So, pardon me, but I need to join in too!

  21. Megan 1 month ago
    Reply

    So, my dear fellow alum, is VMAPA’s auditing firm also in the Richard Lesher Conspiracy Club? They no longer stand behind the accuracy of their accounting records in 2021 and 2022 according to their statement available to the public through the CA DOJ online charity registry. Man these alum will flip against you so quick.

  22. Alum 1 month ago
    Reply

    Way to keep trying to build your brand and platform Megan. Vanguard already explained they were impacted by high turnover, changing systems and so forth. It is not difficult to explain problems. They have admitted to problems. Keep inflaming like you do and pretending to do so out of love.

  23. Fan 1 month ago
    Reply

    “ Finances and Compliance

    In my November 7th, 2023 update, I shared our intentions to have our 2021 and 2022 audits submitted to the state of California by the end of December. The good news is I have received the first draft of those audits. We are working to process these documents through multiple required reviews, thus we are beholden to the timeline (holiday season!) of our staff and our wonderfully diligent accountants. I still hope to meet the goal I articulated in November, and I am confident we will be on the other side of this process in January.

    A number of people responded to my last email with questions about the audit process, specifically asking why it is taking so long. That question is complicated to answer, but I will give it my best shot. Simply put, the organization experienced a number of changes between 2019 and 2022 that make the data collection process harder for this cycle of years than it should be (or will be going forward). In a relatively brief period of time, we changed bookkeepers, accounting systems, CFOs, and CEOs. In some cases, multiple turnovers occurred within each of those categories. A period of time with that many transitions would have been challenging under normal circumstances. Layer Covid into it, and you find us where we are today, working diligently to source data from a variety of systems that should be much more efficient and streamlined. Again, the good news is I am looking at a first draft of the audit, and I share the above information to simply help explain why the process has taken so long.”

  24. Megan 1 month ago
    Reply

    I’ll be discussing the personal attacks here with both Russ Gavin and the president and VP of the alumni associations.

  25. Record speaks for itself 1 month ago
    Reply

    “ It is absolute quicksand to engage with these people who are angry at not getting the jobs they wanted within the organization and who are off. Any push back or reaction to their inflammatory rhetoric is labeled victim blaming, retaliation, further abuse, any resistance to that characterization is further used to inflame, any data about the organization is weaponized to further embarrass it‘

  26. Indeed they do 1 month ago
    Reply

    Keep attacking a victim of this organization. It reflects very poorly on whoever you are, the alumni association, and the overall org. What’s sad is that Vanguard’s own records can’t be verified for 2021 and 2022, including cash from bingo and debts owed to vendors. You want an act of love? How about countering your and the org’s narrative because I am concerned that the last time the corps toured in this state, members were endangered, some have reported mistreatment, and they lost 7 figures worth of money. This is all in Vanguard’s own Qualified Opinion from the CPA firm they’ve been with for years, and that they submitted to the CA DOJ voluntarily. Keep attacking the messengers instead of looking at your own dirty laundry. That’s the definition of retaliation.

  27. Circular 1 month ago
    Reply

    Not the one who started this round with this partial nugget “ They no longer stand behind the accuracy of their accounting records in 2021 and 2022 according to their statement available to the public through the CA DOJ online charity registry. Man these alum will flip against you so quick.” without also providing that they already explained publicly. Rolling around with rhetorical shivs then crying foul at the slightest counters.

  28. Megan 1 month ago
    Reply

    Some alum are okay with millions being unaccounted for, I guess. Accounting errors, changes of programs and management might be the reasons, but if so, then someone should still be held accountable for these mistakes. That hasn’t even remotely happened.

    Also, this is the fourth platform alumni have personally attacked me and others on. So, this is a pattern, and trying to write it off as “simple pushback” is inaccurate. Instead of effectively arguing their points, they stalk and harass here, on reddit, on Facebook, and on Drum Corps Planet. I have receipts. See y’all at the next alumni meeting.

  29. Nah 1 month ago
    Reply

    Not afraid of you. Anyone following the full thread can see you’ve self assigned yourself vengeance

  30. Nah 1 month ago
    Reply

    Also the full record shows you are energized by and enjoy this. You’ve said it.

  31. Megan 1 month ago
    Reply

    Oh that much is clear. And I was never trying to intimidate unlike you, I was only ever trying to stand up for myself and others who were harmed and who asked me to keep going. No, the alumni stalking and harassment actually takes a lot of of me and all the others it’s happened to. It’s a giant drain and it’s a reason so many of the victims I’ve spoken to still never re-engage. This was fun, but I’m done. Go celebrate with the others. I never want to see anything Vanguard ever again because of you and too many like you. You’re free, have a prosperous year.

  32. Richard Lesher, CFA 1 month ago
    Reply

    How is everyone doing?

    VMAPA’s audited financial statements resulted in a Qualified Opinion by:
    Petrinovich Pugh & Company, LLP
    On 11-JAN-2024

    as quoted below from the audit itself.

    ****
    Basis for Qualified Opinion
    Because of inadequacies in the Organization’s accounting records for the years 2022 and 2021, we
    were unable to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence regarding the amounts of bingo revenue
    (stated at $4,016,528 and $3,556,589 for the years ended October 31, 2022 and 2021) and the related
    classifications of bingo related expenses in the accompanying statements of activities. We were unable
    to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence regarding the amounts of property and equipment and
    related accumulated depreciation (stated at $1,737,756 and $1,651,508 for the years ended October 31,
    2022 and 2021) in the accompanying statements of financial position and the related depreciation
    expense (stated at $207,185 and $197,175 for the years ended October 31, 2022 and 2021) in the
    accompanying statements of functional expenses. We were unable to obtain sufficient appropriate audit
    evidence regarding the amounts of accounts payable (stated at $702,149 for the year ended October 31,
    2022) in the accompanying statements of financial position.

    In addition, we were unable to observe physical cash on hand ($58,194 and $64,985 for the years ended
    October 31,2022 and 2021, respectively) included in cash and cash equivalents in the accompanying
    statements of financial position. The Organization’s accounting records do not permit adequate
    retroactive tests of cash quantities. Consequently, we were unable to form an opinion regarding the cash
    and cash equivalents.

    We conducted our audits in accordance with auditing standards generally accepted in the United States
    of America. Our responsibilities under those standards are further described in the Auditors’
    Responsibilities for the Audit of the Financial Statements section of our report. We are required to be
    independent of the Organization and to meet our other ethical responsibilities in accordance with the
    relevant ethical requirements relating to our audits. We believe that the audit evidence we have obtained
    is sufficient and appropriate to provide a basis for our qualified audit opinion.
    *****
    Source:
    https://rct.doj.ca.gov/Verification/Web/Search.aspx?facility=Y
    State Charity Registration Number: 009838
    Audited Financial Statement 2021 and 2022

  33. No objection 1 month ago
    Reply

    “ Simply put, the organization experienced a number of changes between 2019 and 2022 that make the data collection process harder for this cycle of years than it should be (or will be going forward).’”

    Not good, not evidence of crime, they will do better.

  34. Except For 1 month ago
    Reply

    Some infractions the regulators are clearly not going to punish to the fullest possible extent thus granting the org some grace and room to improve. To the extent that you egg them to punish to the fullest extent until you see more heads roll or until you get that job, you’re just hurting.

  35. Corky 1 month ago
    Reply

    Why in the world are angry alumni thinking that Megan and Richard would even consider employment at this corrupt org? YOU are misdirecting YOUR anger.

  36. Sure 1 month ago
    Reply

    Sure, paint this as intimidation. Quicksand quicksand quicksand. Get those narcissistic supply hits.

  37. Wolf 1 month ago
    Reply

    The “I’m out” claims never last nor have they in this instance, already. There’s been no threat. Ew, changing the narrative to seem more severe than it is as usual. Deja vu all over again.

  38. Deja vu 1 month ago
    Reply

    “… you’ve left a near infinite trail of word vomit on the Internet….” “ … Rolling around with rhetorical shivs then crying foul at the slightest counters.…”

  39. Good job 1 month ago
    Reply

    Seeing the claims that you’re being stalked. Nope. You just glom on to every existing vanguard conversation on the internet spitting contempt and claiming ownership at every opportunity. One would have to really really try NOT to connect the dots. And corky indeed they have been and at least Richard is right now just in the last couple of days after more heads to roll and a job.

  40. Still nope 1 month ago
    Reply

    You don’t get to be an agent of chaos on every possible internet space then cry stalking when people react and call you out on the patterns

  41. Escalating 1 month ago
    Reply

    Doing the escalating in other spaces just further supports the above arguments. Let them read for themselves.

  42. Phil Jacobs 1 month ago
    Reply

    This organization is already notorious for employing and shielding bad actors who had no business being anywhere near young people (which is heavily documented in various investigative reports), so they’re already on watchdog lists across the country. You’d think that would prompt them to be on their very best behavior moving forward. Instead, they chose to ignore delinquency letters for 3 years, mail in incorrect late fee amounts, ignore concerns from stakeholders until it all became a public concern, and trick applicants into paying audition fees (plus travel expenses) for a 2023 touring season they already knew wasn’t going to happen. Their own independent auditors have given them a Qualified Opinion, which is extremely rare in the accounting world, raises all manner of red flags, and will almost certainly kick off an investigation as to where exactly all that unaccounted for money went.

    But the most pathetic thing of all here is the whistleblower retaliation being actioned by morons in orbit around this organization, who are only making themselves look bad with all their finger pointing, doxing, threats and intimidation. The whistleblowers’ intentions are irrelevant; they have the receipts, and everything they’ve brought forward has been confirmed by the California Department of Justice website, Vanguard’s internal auditors, and Vanguard itself. Former members are just mad the rest of the world found out, but you might as well stop trying to enact damage control and stop attempting to deflect criticism back onto the whistleblowers, because it’s all a public concern now, and investigators are not only going to be looking at potential criminal activity, but they’re also going to be looking at bad actors who tried to help cover it all up (that includes you, if you’re not smart enough to figure it out). So, you might just want to slither back under the slimy rocks from whence you crawled, because you’re not the good guys here. Member safety is more important than summer marching band. There are plenty of financially solvent drum corps in California that haven’t been delinquent for 3 years, and who can actually account for their bingo money. I wouldn’t trust this organization to have a car wash at this point, and I wouldn’t trust their wagon-circling goon squad of alumni to babysit a dog, because you are very much part of the problem.

  43. Phil 1 month ago
    Reply

    To the extent that he’s even intelligible seems he’s claiming *theft* and that there must have been a *conspiracy* to cover that up. The org has explained that thats not what happened. On the other platform he’s whipping up an e-mob calling for all the leadership to be overturned. Haven’t doxed or threatened or intimidated literally anyone, in fact. But nice work believing the spin. It’s a bit much. To the other person, sure request accepted.

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