Plea deal to be offered to man accused of stealing $1.3 million from Rodeo Austin

Crime

(KXAN)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Travis County District Attorney’s Office has confirmed a plea deal has been offered to the man accused of stealing more than $1 million from Rodeo Austin three years ago, and it appears he is going to accept it.

The final plea agreement and sentencing for Mark Weston, who was indicted on first-degree felony theft charges in June 2019, was supposed to happen Monday morning. Weston and Rodeo Austin’s leadership team were both present in the courtroom, but the case was reset for Feb. 28.

Travis County prosecutor James Winters and defense attorney Alberto Garcia both said it was because Judge Julie Kocurek had to step off the bench and was replaced with a visiting judge. Terms of the plea deal have not been made public.

The allegations stem from 2017 when Weston was first accused of stealing $1.3 million from the nonprofit Rodeo Austin. Weston was the nonprofit’s financial manager since 2014, and was a certified public accountant at the time of the alleged crime.

KXAN reported in 2017 that Weston signed a legal agreement admitting to the theft and that he’d repay $850,000. A tax filing by Rodeo Austin raised the missing amount to $1.3 million after a forensic auditor completed a full review.

According to Rodeo Austin Chief Executive Office Rob Golding, the non-profit has only recovered a little over $300,000 total. Golding said Weston used a portion of the stolen funds to purchase and improve his home. When the home was sold, Rodeo Austin was able to recover a small amount of the sale.

“I suspect Mr. Weston’s ability to pay us back beyond what we’ve recovered is probably nonexistent, and frankly we’ve spent the last three and a half years trying to fix the problem and move forward,” said Golding.

While Rodeo Austin took a big financial hit, Golding said the nonprofit was able to continue awarding college scholarships to more than two dozen high school students each year.

“It wasn’t easy and effectively we’ve had to make cuts and changes in order to keep that giving at the same level,” said Golding.

Monday in court, Weston sat in silence waiting for his case to be called. He told KXAN he had “no comment” on the potential plea deal.

In a 2017 written statement to KXAN, Weston’s attorney said his client suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was prescribed ropinirole, a drug that caused obsessive-compulsive disorder and led to uncontrollable spending. The attorney said Weston, with his extensive understanding of accounting, could have hidden the theft of funds. “Yet, all he did was in the open that any first year accountant could have easily discovered,” according to the statement.

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