ERIE, Pa. – The founder of an Erie non-profit organization and a resident of Erie, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of wire fraud and false writing or document to the government, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.
Sonya Arrington, 53, pleaded guilty to two counts before United States District Judge David S. Cercone. Arrington also accepted responsibility for all of the other counts of the Indictment and agreed that the conduct alleged at those counts may be considered by the Court at sentencing and utilized to calculate her Sentencing Guideline range.
“Every individual who made a donation to Sonya Arrington’s non-profit organization to help prevent teen violence was cheated,” said U.S. Attorney Brady. “The Mothers Against Teen Violence has unofficially ceased to exist, and its initial intent to prevent violence among teens is left unfulfilled. We will continue to prioritize cases that compromise the public’s trust in prominent public servants.”
“Ms. Arrington’s charity was supposed to help youth in the Erie community. Instead, she embezzled tens of thousands of dollars to line her own pocket,” said FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Michael Christman. “She deprived her community and its youth of that money and all the work it could’ve done. It is extremely disappointing when greed and selfishness take over, and today’s guilty plea sends a message that the FBI and our partners will continue our efforts to root out people who believe they are above the law.”
“My office will work to hold accountable those who defraud or attempt to defraud the Social Security Administration,” said Gail S. Ennis, Inspector General of Social Security. “I want to thank the FBI for its partnership throughout this investigation, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for bringing the charges that resulted in today’s guilty plea.”
In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that Arrington diverted funds donated to Mothers Against Teen Violence (MATV), a non-profit organization she created to help prevent violence among teenagers, to pay for her gambling and personal expenses. Specifically, from December 2011 to March 2018, Arrington engaged in a scheme to defraud MATV of at least $70,000. She solicited donations from individuals and entities in person and by email; received donations to MATV in cash and checks payable to MATV and deposited a portion of the donations into MATV bank accounts and kept a portion in cash for herself; and did not deposit cash but kept cash donations for herself. She also used the debit card for the MATV bank accounts to make purchases unrelated to the organization’s purposes, for things like personal items of clothing, groceries, car washes and food at restaurants; used the debit card for MATV to pay personal bills for
T-Mobile, State Farm, First Energy and others; and deposited checks to MATV into personal bank accounts and kept a portion for personal use.
Further, on at least 113 occasions from April 2012 to January 2018, Arrington used the MATV debit card to withdraw MATV funds at Presque Isle Downs & Casino. She would also on occasion leave the casino to travel to a nearby Sheetz for the purpose of using the MATV debit card to withdraw MATV funds and then immediately return to the casino to gamble with those funds. Arrington also fraudulently received approximately $29,558 in Social Security disability benefits and submitted a document to the Social Security Administration that contained a false statement which falsely claimed that she had submitted wage documentation to the Social Security Administration
Judge Cercone scheduled sentencing for February 23, 2021, at 11 a.m. The law provides for a total sentence of 25 years in prison, a fine of $500,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
Pending sentencing, the court continued Arrington on bond.
Assistant United States Attorney Christian A. Trabold is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Special Agent Kenneth Grubb of the Social Security Office of the Inspector General, Philadelphia Field Division, under the supervision of Special Agent-in-Charge Michael McGill, conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Arrington.