Des Moines, IA

Charity leader pleads guilty to stealing donations for sick kids after Des Moines arrest

Amy Christie

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Make-a-Wish leader pleads guilty to stealing donations for sick kids after Des Moines arrest; no jail time for her

The onetime CEO of Make-a-Wish was arrested in Des Moines and pleaded guilty this week to stealing tens of thousands of dollars from charity funds gathered to help sick children and their families.

The Associated Press reported that Jennifer Woodley, a 40-year-old wife and mother arrested on January 21, has done a plea deal with prosecutors that will enable her to avoid spending any time in jail for her three felonies.

What are the details?

Based on a charging documents cited by the Associated Press, Woodley embezzled almost $41,000 from the charity funds.

The woman took over the leading role at Make-a-Wish in August 2019. Only a few months later, she signed off an unapproved bonus to herself of no less than $10,000.

Prosecutors revealed that Woodley hid her bonus in a list legitimate bonuses given out to other people employed by the charity.

The bonus cost the organization more than $15,000, as detailed in a report in the Des Moines Register at the time of Woodley's arrest.

She didn’t stop there

The former CEO also gave herself unapproved salary increases, the Associated Press said.

Besides the inflated compensation, Woodley went through with several unauthorized charges for herself while using a charity credit card.

The Associated Press and People magazine brought to light how she spent over $23,000 over a period of 10 months, by making 84 card purchases for personal use. She did not give any of it back to the organization.

The woman tried to cover what she had done by making false entries in the foundation records.

Woodley pleaded guilty this week to two counts of first-degree theft and one count of fraudulent practices. Even though the felonies would have carried up to 10 years in jail, her plea agreement will allow her to avoid spending any time behind bars.

The deal means that the prosecutors will recommend a sentence of five years of probation, as well as fines and restitution, according to the Associated Press.

Nicholas Sarcone, her lawyer, said he will do his best to have the case expunged from her record as soon as probation and sentencing conditions are met.

On Tuesday Judge Scott Beattie accepted Woodley's guilty pleas.

“We appreciate that the Iowa legal system resolved this matter with an agreement that includes restitution. As always, we remain committed to ensuring that donations to Make-A-Wish are safeguarded and properly used to advance our vision of granting the wish of every eligible child fighting a critical illness,” Make-A-Wish stated for People about the incident that started in Des Moines.

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Amy Christie is a passionate writer and journalist, always striving to bring out the positive and create meaningful connections.

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