A federal judge in Portland today sentenced Mary Holden Ayala, the longtime executive director of the Portland foster care provider Give Us This Day to 33 months in federal prison.
Holden was convicted in February of theft of federal funds, engaging in monetary transactions in criminally derived property filing false federal tax returns.
"Mary Holden Ayala was responsible for protecting and caring for children in Oregon's foster care system. Instead she callously stole from them," said Billy J. Williams, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon in a statement. "Stealing from vulnerable children she was entrusted to serve with taxpayer money is a despicable act and warrants severe consequences."
"Foster children have already lost almost everything—their parents, their homes, their sense of security. Mary Holden Ayala took from them the last thing they had—faith in a foster care system that is supposed to give them a chance at a better life. To steal from society's most vulnerable children to enrich yourself is simply unconscionable," added Renn Cannon, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon.
WW broke the news of Holden Ayala's looting of Give Us This Day in a 2015 cover story, which described how she'd long failed to provide basic necessities to the children in her care, while spending lavishly on exotic trips, shopping sprees and home renovations.
Holden Ayala skimmed money paid to her agency by the Oregon Department of Human Services, which records show failed to her accountable for either for the care of children placed with her or for how she spent the money sent her way. That money came originally from the federal Health and Human Services agency, which is why Holden Ayala was prosecuted in federal, rather than state court.
In addition to prison time, Judge Marco Hernandez ordered Holden Ayala to pay $239,192 in restitution to the IRS and $1,025,235 to satisfy a forfeiture money judgement. She must also give up $451,000 in net proceeds from the sale of a commercial property on NE Martin Luther King Boulevard in Portland that Ayala improperly purchased with money meant for Give Us This Day.
"Stealing money meant to pay for foster care expenses is reprehensible," said Special Agent in Charge Steven Ryan of the HHS Office of Inspector General. "Such greed-fueled fraud can impact those in need and cheats taxpayers; however, today's sentence shows that our hardworking investigators and law enforcement partners are committed to making sure criminals are held accountable for their actions."