Guy Thompson, the former mayor of a Northwest Florida town, has been sentenced to 51 months in prison for embezzling over half a million dollars from the United Way, Mobile’s WKRG-TV reports. He spent the money on a condo and a BMW, among other luxury purchases, prosecutors say.
For decades, Thompson was a beloved and respected figure around the community of Milton, in the Florida Panhandle, where he had served as mayor for decades and then as a city council member for another 16 years. It was that trust and respect he had in the community that enabled him to carry out his years-long embezzlement scheme.
Between 2011 and 2018, Milton carried out a fraud in which he would intercept donations sent to a post office box meant for the United Way of Santa Rosa County. He would then take the checks to the bank and deposit them, but would get some cash back for himself, telling the bank employees that the money was intended for the charity’s “petty cash.”
He did this thousands of times over the years, eventually netting more than $652,000.
Prosecutors say that he was able to use his profile and clout in the community to evade suspicion. Further, he dissuaded members of the chapter of the United Way from doing an internal audit — had they done so, they might have caught on to his scheme.
Thompson spent the money on — among other things — mortgage payments, a BMW, and a beachfront condo.
The United Way of Santa Rosa County, meanwhile, would wind up losing its charter.
By the fall of 2018, according to Fox News, United Way funds manager Ronald Benson began to suspect something was amiss.
“I started to discover where large amounts of money were being redirected. Not misdirected, redirected,” he said.
Eventually, the FBI got involved, and by then, the jig was up. In May 2019, Thompson pleaded guilty to 20 counts of wire fraud and three counts of tax evasion.
John Bingham, a mental health counselor who had been brought in to assist with Thompson’s mental health evaluation, said that Thompson had become depressed.
“As a result of years of depression, he became emotionally bankrupt. He had a drive to care for his family. His family were big spenders, and he couldn’t keep up,” Bingham said.
Thompson, for his part, told a courtroom that he is remorseful for his actions.
“I let a lot of people down. I am ashamed of what I have done and I ask for forgiveness,” he said.