GEORGETOWN — A Circuit Court judge on Thursday declined to hear a request to revoke the probation of Dayo White, the former chief financial officer of Five Rivers Community Development Corp., turning the case over to a judge from another judicial district to decide later this month.
Judge Steven John did not say why he declined to hear White’s case. However, Todd Rigler – John’s law clerk – told prosecutors before the court session that John “wanted a fresh set of eyes to look at it.”
John is the judge who sentenced White and her mother, Beulah White, in 2009 after they pleaded guilty to three felony charges apiece related to the theft of public money from Five Rivers, a nonprofit agency that was supposed to help low-income residents find jobs and buy homes. John also presided over a previous probation revocation hearing for Dayo White.
Dayo White’s hearing now is scheduled for March 31 in front of Judge Roger Couch of Spartanburg. That hearing will be held at the Georgetown County courthouse.
The Whites in 2009 each were sentenced to five years in prison, but those sentences were suspended on the condition that both women pay a combined $65,617.17 in restitution, including interest.
Beulah White, the nonprofit agency’s executive director, repaid the $3,500 she owed and her probation expired this week. Dayo White, however, still owes $31,146 – about half of the $62,117.17 she was ordered to repay. Because her restitution was not made within the five-year period, Dayo White faces the possibility of having her probation revoked and being sent to prison for an unspecified period of time.
During the upcoming hearing, state probation officials will present Dayo White’s financial information – including her income and expenses – to Couch. If Couch finds that Dayo White’s failure to make full restitution is willful, he could send her to prison. If Couch finds that she has failed to make payments because of circumstances beyond her control, he could extend the amount of time she has to repay the full amount.
Couch also could convert the remaining money Dayo White owes to a civil judgment. If that happens, Dayo White’s criminal case would be closed and the state’s probation office would no longer have any oversight of her payments. A civil judgment could hurt Dayo White’s credit rating, but it would be up to the Internal Revenue Service – the agency being paid restitution – to determine whether any further collection efforts will be made.
In her 2012 probation revocation hearing, John ruled that Dayo White’s failure to make regular payments was not willful because she was unemployed at the time.
Five Rivers – which was located on Front Street in Georgetown – went out of business in 2006 after an investigation by The Sun News showed the Whites misspent public money on travel, Christmas bonuses, meals, shopping trips and other benefits for themselves, family members and friends. That investigation also showed that Five Rivers’ board of directors, hand-picked by Beulah White, provided little oversight of how the nonprofit agency was run or how its money was spent.
The $65,617.17 in restitution the Whites were ordered to pay amounts to a little more than 1 percent of the $5 million Five Rivers received in state and federal grants and other funds during its 10-year history.
In addition to the criminal charges, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development ruled in 2006 that the Whites had misspent $418,180 from a federal grant that was supposed to help build a community center for low-income residents. Although HUD ordered the Whites to repay the money, the women never did and the federal agency did not pursue repayment in court. The community center was never built.
Contact DAVID WREN at 626-0281.