A federal judge ordered former Milton Mayor Guy Thompson to pay back $652,000 he embezzled from the United Way of Santa Rosa County in the form of restitution.
He will not, however, be required to pay the full $2.4 million in restitution requested by the United Way and two of its former employees.
Over a seven-year span, Thompson used his role as director of the United Way of Santa Rosa County and the goodwill he had built in the community to pocket hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations meant for local nonprofits. After the thefts were discovered, Thompson pleaded to wire fraud and tax evasion charges and received a 51-month prison sentence.
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The United Way of Santa Rosa County lost its charter and closed its doors because of the debacle. The organization’s interim administrator estimated that between the embezzled funds, lost campaign revenues, lost grant opportunities and lost of value to partner charities, Thompson’s actions caused about $2,344,000 in expected future losses over a five-year period.
Additionally, two former employees of the now defunct UWSRC, Ronald Denson and Elizabeth Jennings, requested restitution for lost wages, lost vacation pay and emotional distress.
In a late April order, U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers denied the employees’ claims and limited restitution for the United Way and its partner agencies to the $652,000 that Thompson embezzled. The judge noted in her order that restitution claims must be based on actual loss, not on speculated or anticipated loss.
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Rodgers divvied up the restitution among the UWSRC and nonprofits that were directly impacted by Thompson’s fraudulent conduct:
- United Way of Santa Rosa County, $431, 074.77
- Interfaith Ministries, $40,658.19
- Family Resource Program, $39,188.62
- Early Learning Coalition, $19,594.31
- Feeding the Gulf Coast, $15,675.45
- The ARC of the Emerald Coast, $15,675.45
- Favor House of Northwest Florida, $15,675.45
- Santa Rosa Bridges Out of Poverty, $15,675.45
- Santa Rosa Kids House, $13,716.02
- Council on Aging of West Florida, $9,797.15
- Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida, $8,817.44
- Independence for the Blind of West Florida, $8,817.44
- Community Health Northwest Florida, $5,878.29
- Gulf Coast Presbyterian Church, $3,918.86
- East Milton Elementary School, $3,918.86
- Outreach Navarre Inc., $3,918.86
In his plea, Thompson admitted that between Oct. 14, 2011, and Oct. 31, 2018, he devised and executed a sophisticated scheme of collecting donation and employee contribution checks and converting them to cash for his personal use through a series of financial transactions at two different banks.
In addition to pleading guilty to 20 counts of wire fraud, Thompson also entered a plea to three counts of tax evasion. For the tax evasion charges, he was ordered to pay a monetary judgement of more than $430,000, and restitution of $159,000 plus interest to the IRS.
Kevin Robinson can be reached at email@example.com or 850-435-8527.