Erie City Council President Indicted on Fraud and Theft Charges Relating to her Non-Profit Organization
ERIE, Pa. – The founder of an Erie non-profit organization and current Erie City Council President has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Erie on charges of wire fraud, theft of government property and false writing or document to the government, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.
The 33-count indictment, returned yesterday, named Sonya Arrington, 51, of Erie, Pennsylvania, as the sole defendant.
"When public officials and those who seek donations for charitable purposes commit dishonest acts, public confidence suffers," stated U.S. Attorney Brady. "We will root out and prosecute corrupt individuals whenever we find them engaging in fraudulent acts while serving in a public position or using charitable contributions to their nonprofit organizations for private gain."
According to the indictment presented to the court, Arrington diverted funds donated to Mothers Against Teen Violence, a non-profit organization she created to help prevent violence among teenagers, to pay for her gambling and personal expenses. Specifically, the indictment alleges that from December 2011 to March 2018, Arrington engaged in a scheme to defraud MATV of at least $70,000. She allegedly solicited donations from individuals and entities in person and by email; received donations to MATV in cash and checks payable to MATV and deposited a portion of the donations into MATV bank accounts and kept a portion in cash for herself; and did not deposit cash but kept donations for herself. She also allegedly used the debit card for the MATV bank accounts to make purchases unrelated to the organization’s purposes, for things like personal items of clothing, groceries, car washes and food at restaurants; used the debit card for MATV to pay personal bills for T-Mobile, State Farm, First Energy and others; and deposited checks to MATV into personal bank accounts and kept a portion for personal use. The indictment alleges that on 113 occasions from April 2012 to January 2018, Arrington used the MATV debit card to withdraw MATV funds at Presque Isle Downs & Casino. The indictment also alleges that Arrington fraudulently received approximately $29,558 in Social Security disability benefits and submitted a document to the Social Security Administration that contained a false statement.
The law provides for a maximum total sentence of 635 years in prison, a fine of $7,750,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
Assistant United States Attorney Christian A. Trabold is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General, conducted the investigation leading to the indictment in this case.
An indictment is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.