U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy Williams today unsealed an indictment of Mary Holden Ayala, the former executive director of the now-defunct foster care provider Give Us This Day.
The charges against Holden (as she is known in Portland) include a slew of felonies: five counts of theft; five counts of filing a false tax return one count of money laundering; two counts of engaging in monetary transactions in criminally derived property; failing to file a tax return; and, money laundering.
Holden's agency received about $1.5 million a year from the Oregon Department of Human Services to take care of some of the state's neediest foster children. Because much of that money originally came from the federal government, charges against her will play out in federal, rather than state, court.
She was arrested by FBI agents Tuesday in Holly Springs, Miss. and will face charges in U.S. District Court in Portland.
WW first brought Holden's actions to public attention with a 2015 cover story. The story explained that although she ran one of the state's largest and oldest foster care nonprofits and received premiums for accepting hard-to-place children, Holden was chronically short of money to pay for children's basic needs, including food, toilet paper and sanitary supplies; that she regularly failed to pay employees; and that although her organization had been given valuable properties by Multnomah County, she was in danger of losing property to foreclosure.
An Oregon Department of Justice investigation found that Holden had diverted as much as two million dollars for personal use, including trips to the Caribbean and numerous casinos; shopping sprees luxury stores and to the renovation of her West Linn home; her mortgage payments and the purchase of property unrelated to child welfare.
While children in her care went hungry, she spent at least $20,000 at "nail salons, beauty supply stores, medical spas, and a cosmetic surgery clinic," and another $25,000 at "luxury retail stores including but not limited to Louis Vuitton, Ferragamo, Michael Kors, Coach, and Nordstrom."
The federal indictment pegs the amount she diverted to personal use at $800,000—a number that is probably conservative.
Perhaps the most troubling part of Holden's story is that officials at the Oregon Department of Human Services knew for years that Give Us This Day was failing to serve the vulnerable children placed in its care and that the organization's financial troubles were just a symptom of far bigger problems.
After WW published DHS emails showing that officials had turned a blind eye to obvious problems at the foster care provider, Gov. Kate Brown fired top agency officials and lawmakers passed legislation aimed at holding DHS and providers more accountable for their supervision of foster children.
The indictment shows that long after Holden's activities became public, she continued her alleged crimes.
In particular, in September 2016, Holden allegedly sold a piece of property at 4128 NE Martin Luther King Jr., Blvd., for $800,000. She'd bought the property in 2012, the indictment says, for $300,000, nearly half of which was diverted from funds intended for the welfare of children in Give Us This Day's custody.
Holden's West Linn Home—partially purchase and subsequently remodeled with money meant for foster children, the indictment alleges—was foreclosed upon in 2015 but in addition to penalties including possible prison time, the indictment seeks the forfeiture of any remaining assets Holden acquired improperly.
Holden is in custody in Mississippi and could not be reached for comment. The U.S. Attorney's office declined comment.