March 31, 2014

Dayo White, guilty of stealing money from Five Rivers nonprofit, no longer ordered to pay restitution

Judge converts White’s unpaid restitution to a civil judgment after public defender, probation officer speak on her behalf

Dayo White, the former chief financial officer of Five Rivers Community Development Corp., no longer will be required to pay restitution for money she stole from the nonprofit agency that was supposed to help low-income people find jobs and buy homes.

A circuit court judge on Monday converted about half of the $62,117.17 White was ordered to pay five years ago into a civil judgment, thus putting an end to her probation and criminal case. Since White is no longer under the jurisdiction of the state’s Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services, it will be up to the Internal Revenue Service to decide whether it will pursue the unpaid restitution in civil court.

White still owes $31,146 from the amount she was ordered to pay as part of a 2009 plea agreement in which she also received a five-year suspended prison sentence for three felony charges. The civil judgment handed down Monday could hurt White’s credit rating, but she no longer faces the threat of being sent to prison for failing to meet the terms of her probation.

Following the hearing, White – when asked if she had a comment – paraphrased a Bible verse: “My latter shall be greater than my former,” she said. White declined further comment.

Judge Roger Couch said during the hearing that he was concerned that White’s restitution payments had decreased every year since she her guilty plea in 2009. Most of the payments came during the first three years of her probation, Couch said, with just $1,260 paid in the past two years.

“She has always paid what she could,” said Wyn Bessent, a public defender who represented White. “There were times when she had to use her child support money to make payments.”

Bessent said White also used proceeds from a student loan she received to make some restitution payments. Bessent said White now is working as the manager of a Gullah-themed gift shop and is raising two children.

Tammy Altman, with the state’s probation office, also lobbied on White’s behalf.

“She has done the best she can with what she has,” Altman said.

This was the fourth time White had appeared before a judge for failing to repay restitution. During the three previous times – January 2011, March 2012 and January 2013 – Judge Steven John ruled that White’s failure to pay was not willful because she was either unemployed or faced other financial challenges.

John was supposed to preside over White’s latest probation revocation hearing, but rescheduled the hearing for another judge at the last minute saying he “wanted a fresh set of eyes to look at it,” according to John’s law clerk.

White was one-half of the management team at Five Rivers, a nonprofit agency started by her mother, Beulah White.

Beulah White, the agency’s executive director, also pleaded guilty to three felonies in 2009 and was ordered to repay $3,500 she stole from the nonprofit. Beulah White made full restitution and her probation ended earlier this year.

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 combined $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.

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