Former Erie City Council President Sentenced for Defrauding the Non-Profit She Founded to Cover Her Gambling and Personal Expenses
ERIE, Pa. - The former president of Erie City Council and founder of an Erie non-profit organization has been sentenced in federal court to one year and a day in prison on her conviction of wire fraud and false writing or document to the government, Acting United States Attorney Stephen R. Kaufman announced today.
Senior United States District Judge David S. Cercone imposed the sentence on Sonya Arrington, 54, of Erie, Pennsylvania.
According to information presented to the court, Arrington diverted funds donated to Mothers Against Teen Violence (MATV), a non-profit organization she created to help prevent violence among teenagers, to pay for her gambling and personal expenses. Specifically, from December 2011 to March 2018, Arrington engaged in a scheme to defraud MATV of at least $70,000. She 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 cash donations for herself. She also 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.
Further, on at least 113 occasions from April 2012 to January 2018, Arrington used the MATV debit card to withdraw MATV funds at Presque Isle Downs & Casino. She would also on occasion leave the casino to travel to a nearby Sheetz for the purpose of using the MATV debit card to withdraw MATV funds and then immediately return to the casino to gamble with those funds. Arrington also fraudulently received approximately $29,558 in Social Security disability benefits and submitted a document to the Social Security Administration that contained a false statement which falsely claimed that she had submitted wage documentation to the Social Security Administration.
"Sonya Arrington solicited donations for a non-profit organization she founded, Mothers Against Teen Violence, only to steal over $70,000 of the funds to take vacations, pay her bills, and support her gambling habit," said Acting U.S. Attorney Kaufman. "We will continue to pursue and prosecute individuals, including those in positions of public trust, who steal money that doesn’t belong to them and divert it to personal use."
"Ms. Arrington treated her non-profit organization like it was her personal bank account," said FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Mike Nordwall. "Her greed and selfishness
shortchanged the community’s efforts to help prevent teen violence. Ms. Arrington knew the importance of this charity’s efforts in the community since she was a public servant and a mom who lost a child to violence. The FBI will always hold people accountable who are foolish enough to believe they are above the law and won’t get caught."
"My office will continue to aggressively pursue those who defraud or attempt to defraud the Social Security Administration’s benefit programs," Gail S. Ennis, Inspector General of the Social Security Administration. "I want to thank the FBI for their collaboration and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for its support of this investigation and its efforts."
Prior to imposing sentence, Judge Cercone noted the impact on other charitable giving because of her actions.
Assistant United States Attorney Christian A. Trabold prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.
Acting United States Attorney Kaufman commended the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General for the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of Arrington.