Former employee of non-profit organization charged with stealing millions in federal funding

Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 11:14 AM EDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - A former employee of a non-profit organization has been arrested in connection with stealing millions of dollars in federal funding.

Acting United States Attorney Lisa G. Johnston says Ruth Marie Phillips, also known as Marie Phillips, 68, of Chesapeake, Ohio, is charged with theft of over $4.7 million federal funds from River Valley Child Development Services.

RVCDS is a non-profit organization in Huntington that gets federal funding of over $10,000 in any one year and also receives state funding.  It provides programs, services and support to children, families and the early childhood community.

According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, Phillips worked as the Director of Business and Finance at RVCDS from approximately December 1, 1986 to on or about September 1, 2020.  Officials say during this time, Phillips was responsible for all financial operations, including monitoring accounts receivable, creating and submitting invoices, reconciling bank accounts and issuing checks.

The criminal complaint says that on or about April 2, 2002, Phillips allegedly opened a BB&T bank account under the name RVCDS without permission from the organization.  Phillips listed her home address on the bank account and used it to knowingly convert approximately $4.72 million of RVCDS funds to her own account.

Phillips also used the embezzled money for her own personal use, as well as to fund Attitude Aviation, according to the criminal complaint. It’s a full-service fixed-base operator authorized to provide aeronautical services, including fueling, rental of hangar space, aircraft rental, flight instruction and maintenance.  Attitude Aviation has offices at the Lawrence County Airpark in South Point, Ohio and Tri-State Airport in Huntington.  Phillips owns Attitude Aviation with at least two other people.

Phillips faces up to ten years in federal prison, if convicted.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the West Virginia State Police are conducting the investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Kristin F. Scott and Kathleen Robeson are handling the prosecution.

The FBI and Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office were at a home in the Prim Rose subdivision in Chesapeake Thursday morning.

CHESAPEAKE, Ohio (WSAZ) - The FBI and Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office are at a home in Chesapeake, Ohio Thursday morning.

The sheriff tells one person has been taken into custody as part of a federal search warrant and investigation.

The sheriff says the FBI is assisting in the investigation.

The home searched Thursday morning is in the Prim Rose subdivision in Chesapeake.

This is a developing story.

Keep checking on the WSAZ app for the latest information.

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