TEXARKANA, Texas — A woman who embezzled more than $60,000 from the Pleasant Grove Showstoppers booster club was sentenced to just under two years in federal prison Monday afternoon by a federal judge in Texarkana.
Nikki Diane May, 42, appeared for sentencing Monday with Texarkana lawyer David James before U.S. District Judge Robert Schroeder III. May pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud in September involving her theft of funds while acting as treasurer for the organization from June 2017 to November 2018.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Hornok argued at the hearing that prior similar criminal conduct by May involving a "separate victim organization" for which she was never criminally prosecuted should be considered in May's sentencing for the wire fraud.
According to statements made by Hornok and Schroeder at the hearing, May allegedly embezzled nearly $400,000 from a different organization from 2010 to 2016. Neither Schroeder nor Hornok mentioned the name of the other organization and some sentencing documents were filed under seal by the government.
Hornok said May acted in much the same way in the previous case as she did when confronted with theft from the booster club.
"Once she got caught, her response was, 'I'll pay back all the money if you don't prosecute,'" Hornok said. "This puts the victim in an incredibly difficult situation. To recover their loss quickly they forego the criminal justice system."
Hornok said organizations have an interest in quickly recovering missing funds and in avoiding publicity, which could damage the organization's reputation and credibility. Hornok described May's offer to quickly pay her victims back as a "pernicious aspect of this conduct."
Before May was charged in the Texarkana Division of the Eastern District of Texas, she paid back approximately $60,000 to the Showstoppers and penned a letter of apology as part of her agreement with the organization. A number of May's friends, family and fellow church members wrote letters in support of her and attended Monday's hearing.
James argued that May "doesn't need incarceration to feel remorse," and noted that she has two teenaged children. James noted that May is now a convicted felon and that she must live with the knowledge that members of the Showstoppers dance team did not get to go on a trip because of her theft.
Hornok argued that May's history of taking money from organizations indicates that she has not "learned her lesson."
"The defendant has received much forgiveness in her life. The booster club made no attempt to prosecute. But justice must be done here," Hornok said.
Hornok read excerpts from letters submitted to the court by victims of May's conduct. One mother spoke of the disappointment her daughter experienced at not getting to go on a trip with the club to San Diego, which occurs only once every four years. Another spoke of a mother having to console a daughter who felt "heartbreak for her teammate whose mother stole from them."
Hornok pointed out that defendants who have the resources to pay back a victim when misconduct is discovered should not be treated differently than defendants who are unable to make immediate restitution.
May wept as she apologized for her wrongdoing and lamented that her imprisonment will create hardship for her children and parents. Schroeder asked May why she chose to steal from the booster club after having been caught acting similarly with a different organization.
Schroeder agreed to allow May to self-surrender to federal authorities in mid-June to begin serving her 23-month term. Following her release from prison, May will be supervised for three years by U.S. Probation officials. If she violates the conditions of her supervised release, May could be ordered to serve additional time behind bars.
May will remain on her existing unsecured $10,000 appearance bond until she reports to the Bureau of Prisons in June.
According to a factual basis filed at the time of her plea in the Texarkana Division of the Eastern District of Texas, May began moving funds from the club in 2017 and continued until she was caught in November 2018. May pocketed cash collected at fundraisers, from donations and withdrew cash using the club's ATM card, according to records.
To conceal her criminal activity, May created fraudulent reports which inflated the actual balance in the club's accounts.
"The victims of my fraud included 10 or more of the student beneficiaries, club members and officers, and donors. Additionally, in committing my fraud, I abused a position of private trust in the office of club treasurer; without that position of trust, I would not have been able to commit this fraud," the factual basis states.
"Finally, in committing my fraud, I misrepresented that I was acting on behalf of a charitable and education organization; specifically, I lied to students, club members and officers, and donors by telling them that the money I received and was under my care was to be used only to enhance the educational experience for the members of the Pleasant Grove High School Showstoppers team," the factual basis states.