Crime

Ex-University Place PTA treasurer gets 3 years for stealing

Alison Jo Woods stole money meant for elementary school children and Russian orphans, crimes one witness called “repulsive.”

But it was the repeated nature of Woods’ behavior that caught the attention of Judge Elizabeth Martin in Pierce County Superior Court on Friday.

The judge was trying to decide whether Woods, 46, deserved a first-time offender waiver and a light sentence.

Martin kept coming back to the fact that Woods stole first from the Sunset Elementary PTA and then a charity called Sweet Hope Foundation.

The foundation raises money to build playgrounds for orphaned children in the former Soviet Union.

Deputy prosecutor Scott Peters said Woods, 46 made a series of unauthorized withdrawals from the accounts of each agency, where she served as treasurer in 2012-13, gleaning more than $21,000.

“You may have rationalized it,” the judge said. “You may have thought you wouldn’t get caught. You may have, as your attorney said, not been yourself.

“The fact is you did take money over and over and over again for your own personal use, and you did so by deception.”

Bottom line: Three years in prison for Woods, the mother of five and a former Sunday school teacher who pleaded guilty earlier this year to nine felonies, including theft, forgery and identity theft.

Peters had wanted more, arguing for three years, seven months.

The deputy prosecutor pointed out that the theft of $17,000 from the PTA caused the organization to lose its insurance for a time. Sweet Hope had to suspend its operations because of lack of funds, he said.

“This is not a one-time incident,” Peters said. “This is not a one-time mistake.”

Stealing from children is a repulsive act and should result in heavy consequences.

Derek Lindholm, Sweet Hope Foundation board of directors

Representatives of Sweet Hope and the Sunset PTA also called for the maximum possible sentence, saying Woods betrayed the trust of not only them but also of the children they serve.

“Her selfishness showed no regard for teachers, parent volunteers or the children,” Marisa Peloquin of the Sunset PTA told Martin on Friday. “She was just taking us for a ride.”

Defense attorney Travis Currie argued for the first-time offender waiver. He said his client found herself in “a spiral” of prescription drug dependence and health issues at the time of the thefts.

Woods’ eldest son, David Woods, spoke up for his mother, calling her a “caring and loving person” who helped him get his life back on track after serious troubles of his own.

“I’m proud to say that’s my mom,” he told Martin.

Alison Woods then took a turn to speak.

“I’m very, very sorry for all the wrong that I have done,” she said.

She went on to say she’s been punished already, ostracized by her friends and shamed. Even her children have suffered, being bullied because of her actions, she said.

“I’ve become the villain of my own life,” Woods said.

She nearly begged for mercy from Martin, saying her son and daughter-in-law are expecting a child.

“Your honor, please, I want to see my grandchild born,” Woods said through tears. “I’m sorry. I’m truly sorry.”

Martin wasn’t much moved.

“I do believe you’re sorry,” the judge said. “But I do believe there has to be accountability for acts of this nature.”

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644

adam.lynn@thenewstribune.com

@TNTAdam

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