Jennifer Woodley Iowa Make A Wish former CEO pleads guilty to embezzling funds from the charity meant to help sick children. Former executive faced up to 10 years jail prior to plea deal.
Jennifer Woodley, 40, admitted in a written guilty plea last week that she made unauthorized charges on a foundation credit card, gave herself an unapproved bonus and salary increases and made false entries into foundation records related to those expenses, AP reported.
Woodley, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree theft and one count of fraudulent practices, all felonies. Under a plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend a sentence of five years of probation, along with fines and restitution.
A charging document alleges that Woodley’s embezzlement totaled nearly $41,000, but restitution has not yet been set.
Judge Scott Beattie accepted the guilty pleas Tuesday and scheduled a sentencing hearing for July 20. The former CEO who was initially charged with first-degree theft and unauthorized use of a credit card had faced up to ten years prison on a class C felony.
Woodley’s attorney, Nicholas Sarcone, said that he would ask for a deferred judgment at sentencing. If granted, that means the case would be expunged from her record, as long as Woodley completes her probation and the other parts of her sentence, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Based in the Des Moines suburb of Urbandale, the Iowa group is one of 60 chapters of Make-A-Wish America, which provides support and memorable experiences for children with critical illnesses and their families.
The theft began shortly after Woodley became the group’s president and CEO in 2019 and continued until the group discovered financial irregularities during an internal compliance review last summer. That’s when the organization fired Woodley and sought a criminal investigation KCCI previously reported.
“As an established non-profit organization with the single purpose of transforming the lives of children with critical illness, we are sad and disappointed by these events,” then-board chair Joshua Norton said according to KCCI.
Make-A-Wish Iowa has an annual budget of $4 million, a staff of 16 employees and is governed by a 17-member volunteer board.
While Woodley’s salary was not disclosed, the previous outgoing Iowa Make a Wish CEO was on a $140,000 retainer.
Woodley turned herself in to face the charges in January and has been free on bond. Jail records listed her new address as Winston Salem, North Carolina.
Of note, the former CEO and her husband have two daughters who have required brain surgery, one of whom had received a trip to Walt Disney World through Make-A-Wish Iowa before Woodley was hired as CEO.