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Former non-profit employee pleads guilty to theft of federal funds

Phillips converted over $4.7 million of organization’s funds
Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 4:39 PM EDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - A woman from Chesapeake, Ohio, pleaded guilty Monday to theft of federal funds from River Valley Child Development Services, a non-profit organization located in Huntington.

RVCDS provides programs, services and support to children, families and the early childhood community.

According to court documents and statements made in court, Ruth Marie Phillips, also know as Marie Phillips, 69, worked at RVCDS from December 1986 until September 2020. Phillips held various positions at RVCDS, including Director of Business and Finance. Phillips was responsible for all financial operations, including monitoring accounts receivable, creating and submitting invoices, reconciling bank accounts and issuing checks.

From July 1, 2016, to on or about June 30, 2017, RVCDS received approximately $7,131,756 in federal funding and Phillips used her position of trust and authority to steal approximately $964,012 during that period.

Phillips further admitted that between December 2013 and August 2020, she stole approximately $4,721,731 from RVCDS.

During that period, she sent $1,142,500 to her personal checking account and sent another $3,395,500 to Attitude Aviation’s U.S. bank account.

Attitude Aviation has offices at Lawrence County Airpark in South Point, Ohio, and Tri-State Airport in Huntington and provides aeronautical services, including fueling, rental of hangar space, aircraft rental, flight instruction and maintenance.

As part of her plea agreement, Phillips agreed to forfeit her interest in her Chesapeake, Ohio, personal residence, as well as a lake house on Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia that she purchased during the period of her criminal activity. Phillips also agreed to forfeit her interest in several vehicles and her interest in Attitude Aviation property and equipment.

During the investigation, three search warrants were simultaneously executed across two states on April 8, 2021, including Phillips’ personal residence in Chesapeake, Ohio; Attitude Aviation’s Lawrence County Airpark office in Ohio; and Attitude Aviation’s Huntington Tri-State Airport office in West Virginia.

Phillips faces up to 10 years in federal prison, a fine of at least $250,000, and restitution in the amount of $4,721,731 when she is sentenced on Dec. 13, 2021.

Acting United States Attorney Lisa G. Johnston made the announcement and commended the thorough investigative work of the FBI, the West Virginia State Police, the Central West Virginia Drug and Violent Crime Task Force, the Lawrence County, Ohio Sheriff’s Office, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office Litigation Financial Analyst.

Former non-profit employee accused of stealing millions of federal funding in court

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