Jennifer Woodley admitted to giving herself unapproved bonuses and salary increases — and charging thousands to the foundation credit card for personal expenses

Advertisement
Jennifer Woodley
Jennifer Woodley
| Credit: Polk County Jail/AP/Shutterstock

The former CEO of Make-A-Wish Iowa has admitted to embezzling $41,000 from the charity that grants wishes to children with cancer and other serious illnesses.

On Thursday, Jennifer Woodley, 40, entered a guilty plea in writing, online court records show.

The mother of two pleaded guilty to two felony counts of first-degree theft and one felony count of fraudulent practices, the Associated Press reports.

Woodley, who became CEO and president in 2019, admitted to giving herself an unapproved bonus and salary increases, charging the foundation credit card for personal use without authorization and making false entries into the organization's records for those items, the AP reports.

Before Woodley became CEO, her family had been a recipient of the foundation's generosity when a family member was given a trip to Walt Disney World.

On Tuesday, 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, the AP reports.

She is scheduled for sentencing on July 20.

Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up for PEOPLE's free True Crime newsletter for breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases.

Restitution has not yet been set.

When reached by PEOPLE, Woodley's attorney, Nicholas, had no comment.

But the AP reports that he said he 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 assumed leadership 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, according to criminal complaints unsealed in Jan. 2021, the AP and the Des Moines Register report.

Woodley added her bonus to a list of bonuses for other employees that had been approved by the board, which totaled $15,540, the AP reports.

Woodley also spent $23,000 on 84 purchases for personal use over a period of 10 months, the unsealed complaints showed, the AP reports.

In the summer of 2020, Make-A-Wish Iowa found "financial irregularities" during a compliance review, the AP reports.

Woodley was dismissed from her job soon after, in July 2020, the AP reports.

On January 21, 2021, Woodley was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree theft and the unauthorized use of a credit card, the AP and Des Moines Register reported.

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.

Her husband did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's requests for comment.

"We appreciate that the Iowa legal system resolved this matter with an agreement that includes restitution," Make-A-Wish tells PEOPLE in a statement. "As always, we remain committed to ensuring that donations to Make-A-Wish are safeguarded and properly used to advance our vision of granting the wish of every eligible child fighting a critical illness."