Ex-financial chief ordered to return $4.7 million she stole from children’s charity to buy fleet of planes, homes and a Corvette

The former finance director of a West Virginia children’s charity had been asked to pay back $4.7 million she stole from the nonprofit and used to buy a fleet of airplanes, a lakefront home and a Corvette.

Ruth Marie Phillips, 69, pleaded guilty in September 2021 and was sentenced to seven years in prison in January for funneling River Valley Child Development Services money into an airline company she ran on the side and into her own pockets.

Prosecutors said Phillips has worked for the charity since 1986, which provides childcare services and nutritional programs across West Virginia funded primarily by state grants. She eventually became the charity’s business and finance director and began stealing the money in 2013. She was fired in 2020.

During that time, prosecutors said, Phillips transferred $1.14 million to her personal checking account and $3.4 million to the bank account of Attitude Aviation, a small aircraft charter and aviation services company she owned and operated at airports in Ohio and Huntington, West Virginia.

In one year, Phillips withdrew nearly 16% of the $7.1 million in grants the nonprofit received, prosecutors said.

“Phillips has done a great deal of harm to the children and families she should have supported,” said Will Thompson, the US Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia. “I commend our law enforcement partners and my staff for their quest for justice in this case.”

Phillips’ attorney did not immediately respond to a message asking for comment. In a court filing, Phillips admitted she stole an exorbitant amount of money, but said she did so primarily to support the aviation business for her partner and son.

She also said she battled alcohol addiction for years after her husband – a Vietnam veteran who suffered from PTSD – committed suicide in the late 1990s.

Prosecutors said that as part of Phillips’ restitution agreement, she agreed to pay $602,000 from the sale of six planes, $305,000 from the sale of her Smith Mountain Lake home in Virginia, and $170,000 from the sale of one House in West Virginia and another in Chesapeake, Ohio. She was also ordered to forfeit her Lexus RX and Chevrolet Corvette.

In court documents, prosecutors said the “reprehensible” theft resulted in families not receiving the assistance they would have received had the money not been stolen and resulted in some charity workers losing their jobs.

“Her crime shows a lack of empathy and a cold willingness to take advantage of others when they were vulnerable and dependent on her,” prosecutors argued in court filings.

A message left with officials at River Valley Child Development Services was not immediately answered.

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/ex-finance-chief-ordered-to-return-4-7-million-she-stole-from-childrens-charity-to-buy-fleet-of-planes-houses-and-a-corvette-11648848727?rss=1&siteid=rss Ex-financial chief ordered to return $4.7 million she stole from children’s charity to buy fleet of planes, homes and a Corvette

Brian Lowry

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