The ex-director of a nonprofit in Sanford, Maine was sentenced Tuesday to 2 1/2 years in prison for stealing more than $900,000 from the organization over six years. He was also ordered to pay $1.35 million in restitution and will report to prison on June 18.
According to a report in the Portland Press Herald, Thomas Nelson embezzled the money from York County Community Action (YCCA) from 2004 until his resignation in 2010. The organization provides services for low-income women and children.
Nelson's attorney, Jeffrey Silverstein, said that his client stole the money to fuel his gambling addiction, a habit he has since stopped. Nelson apologized for his actions in court, saying he let down YCCA.
"They trusted me, treated me well and I let them down."
Nelson transferred the money he stole from YCCA to a consulting firm outside Maine that returned part of the money in cash or payments toward his personal finances, according to court records. He continued to work for other nonprofits after he left YCCA in 2010, working as an executive director for Rockingham County Community Action in New Hampshire until, when faced with charges of embezzlement, he pleaded guilty in 2012.
The U.S. Attorney's Office recommended a reduced prison sentence for Nelson since he cooperated fully with investigators. Judge Nancy Torresen accepted this recommendation for this reason and because she wanted Nelson to return to the workforce quickly so he could repay his debt.
"From my point of view, you stole money from people who could least afford to lose it," Torresen told Nelson. "I consider this crime shameful."
In a written statement, Barbara Crider, YCCA's current executive director, thanked the U.S. Attorney's Office for their efforts and said that no program funds were taken as a result of Nelson's actions, and that services were not interrupted. The organization has also recovered a significant amount of the lost funds from its insurance bond.
You can read the full story in the Portland Press Herald.