PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The former executive director of an Oregon foster care agency will spend nearly 3 years in prison for stealing more than $1 million, laundering money and filing false personal tax returns.
Mary Holden Ayala was convicted after an 8-day trial in February in federal court. The 59-year-old was the president and executive director of Give Us This Day, a private foster care agency and a residential program for youths, from 2008 and 2015.
Give Us This Day received most of its funding for its services through the state of Oregon and the federal government. Beginning in 2009, Ayala had complete control over the finances for Give Us This Day, the US Attorney’s Office said. She wrote checks, used the organization’s debit card and withdrew cash whenever she wanted.
She used that money to pay her mortgage, remodel her home, travel, open a media company and a fish and ribs restaurant in Portland called Big Mary’s. She also used the money to buy and flip a commercial property, the US Attorney said.
While this was happening, house managers at Give Us This Day complained about a lack of basic necessities for foster care.
When Ayala left Give Us This Day in 2015, she filed 5 false federal income tax returns for 2009 through 2013, then filed another false return for 2014. She didn’t file a return in 2015.
Along with spending 33 months in prison, sentencing, US District Court Judge Marco Hernandez ordered Ayala to pay $239,192 in restitution to the IRS and $1,025,235 to pay off a forfeiture money judgment.
Hernandez also ordered more than $451,000 from the sale of the commercial property on NE Martin Luther King Boulevard be forfeited to the US.
In a statement, FBI Special Agent in Charge Renn Cannon said, “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.”