Minneapolis woman sentenced for stealing from non-profits
Cynthia Waight was sentenced to probation and a year in the workhouse for swindling money from the non-profit she worked at while she was on probation for defrauding a different non-profit, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Friday.
Waight, 55, pleaded guilty on July 29 to one-count of identity theft and one-count of theft-by-swindle. As part of her sentencing, should Waight violate the conditions of her probation, she could serve 81-months in prison. She is also ordered to repay funds she stole from the non-profit organizations. The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office had sought the 81 month prison term.
“She betrayed our friendship in order to steal from vulnerable adults, from the very people she was supposed to help,” former co-worker and friend Wanda Baas told the judge before the sentencing.
Waight also spoke at the sentencing, saying she was sorry for her actions.
According to the complaint, Waight was investigated by a special agent with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development since much of the more than $80,000 she stole were federal funds. She was hired by Vail Place in July 2014 as a housing manager where she oversaw the organization’s work with the Crisis Housing Fund, a pool of public money designed to help individuals with mental illness who could lose their home or apartment because of their illness.
Prior to 2014, Vail Place would submit a handful of applications each year. By 2016, Waight was submitting up to three applications per month. And instead of writing the checks to the landlord or other companies, by October 2015, Waight began writing some of the checks out to cash, according to the complaint.
An analysis of Vail Place’s bank account found that from October 2015 through January 2017, $96,270 in Crisis Housing funds were deposited into that bank account. During that same time period, $97,442 was withdrawn from that account through checks signed by Waight. Of that amount, $81,901 was by checks written out to cash, the complaint states.
Investigators seized the records of Waight’s personal bank accounts and that revealed that, between October 2015 and November 2016, she deposited more than $22,000 in cash into her accounts. Many of the deposits lined up exactly with times when Waight withdrew cash from the Vail Place account, according to the complaint.
On May 25, 2016, after Waight had been working at Vail Place for almost two years, she was charged with two counts of theft by swindle by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office in connection with her previous employment at Resource Inc., a non-profit that helps underserved populations. She used clients from Resource's Homeless Outreach project to embezzle more than $25,000 from Resource.
Cynthia Waight Criminal Complaint (PDF)