AUSTIN (KXAN) - AUSTIN (KXAN) - Former Christmas Bureau of Austin - Travis County president Shon Washington was sentenced to four years in prison Thursday after pleading guilty to felony theft charges.
Washington, appearing in an Austin courtroom, was accused of stealing money from the charity operated to help underprivileged children during the holidays. Reports that the Christmas Bureau of Austin was in trouble were first reported in November 2012 by KXAN.
“Unfortunately, we’ll never get the money back that was stolen from the Christmas Bureau, but at least this sends a message that if you steal from a charity, we will take action,” said prosecutor Bill Bishop with the Travis County District Attorney’s Office.
The Christmas Bureau of Austin charity worked with the Blue Santa Program operated by the Austin Police Department. Before its troubles surfaced, the non-profit typically raised about $100,000 a year. Last year, the Blue Santa organization took over thousands of applications for needy families who would not be served because the Christmas Bureau was closed during the criminal investigation. That organization will take over once again for the Christmas Bureau this year.
“We will be challenged again this year as we again serve not only the 3,800 families that Operation Blue Santa will serve, but however many additional families that the Christmas Bureau was supposed to have served,” said Ken Crooks, President of the Board for Operation Blue Santa.
Troubles at the Christmas Bureau prompted a police investigation. And later, the Texas Attorney General's Office seized its assets.
In December 2012, Washington was arrested on a drug charge and on several traffic violations. Those charges were dismissed Thursday as part of a plea agreement.
KXAN reported in June that after taking over the bureau, Washington combined the Christmas Bureau bank account with that of another charity he started, the CRC Fellowship, according to search warrant affidavits filed by Austin Police Detective Billy Petty.
“Between October 2010 and May of 2011, about $30,000 was used out of the Christmas Bureau account that appeared to be suspicious,” Petty told KXAN at the time.
Prior to his guilty plea Thursday, Washington denied stealing from the charity.
“Mr. Washington felt this was really in the best interest of his family moving forward to put this behind him and be ready when he is released to start a new chapter,” said Mindy Montford, Washington’s defense attorney.
The troubles with the Christmas Bureau of Austin - Travis County do not extend to other Christmas Bureau chapters in the region.
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