Make-A-Wish CEO Pleads Guilty to Embezzling Funds for Sick Children
The former CEO of the Make-A-Wish Iowa branch has confessed to embezzling $41,000 from the charity that grants wishes to children with cancer and other terminal illnesses.
40-year-old mother-of-two Jennifer Woodley pleaded guilty this week to two counts of first-degree theft and one felony count of fraudulent practices, according to the Associated Press.
Woodley became CEO and president of Make-A-Wish Iowa in 2019. She admitted to giving herself an unapproved bonus and salary increases. She also charged the foundation credit card for personal use without authorization and made false entries into the organization’s records for those items.
Before Woodley became CEO, her family was a recipient of the foundation when a family member was granted a trip to Walt Disney World.
Judge Scott Beattie accepted her guilty pleas, online court records show.
As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend a sentence of five years of probation, fines and restitution.
Her sentencing is scheduled for July 20. Restitution has not yet been set.
According to the Associated Press, Woodley’s attorney will ask for a deferred judgment at her sentencing, which would expunge the case from her record if she finishes probation and pays the fines and restitution.
The embezzlement came to light about a year after Woodley became CEO of Make-A-Wish Iowa in Urbandale in August 2019.
She and her husband, Matt Woodley, had moved to Urbandale for his job as assistant coach for Drake University’s basketball team.
In October 2019, just months after she started her new job, Woodley gave herself an unapproved bonus of $10,000.
Woodley added her bonus to a list of bonuses for other employees that had been approved by the board, which totaled $15,540.
Woodley also spent $23,000 on 84 purchases for personal use over a period of 10 months.
In the summer of 2020, Make-A-Wish Iowa found “financial irregularities” during a compliance review.
Woodley was dismissed from her job soon after, in July 2020. On January 21, 2021, Woodley was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree theft and the unauthorized use of a credit card.
She was booked into the Polk County Jail and then released on bond.
In September 2020, she and her family moved to Winston-Salem, N.C., where her husband is a coach at Wake Forest University.