Chesapeake woman arrested by FBI after allegedly stealing $4.7 million from nonprofit agency

Published 3:43 pm Thursday, April 8, 2021

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A Chesapeake woman was arrested by the FBI on Thursday morning after a criminal complaint charged her with stealing millions from a non-profit organization to fund her lifestyle and her aviation company.

A press release from Lisa G. Johnston, the acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, said that Ruth Marie Phillips, also known as Marie Phillips, 68, appeared in federal court in Huntington, West Virginia on the charge of theft of federal funds.

She had been the director of Business and Finance for the non-profit organization River Valley Child Development Services from 1986-2020.

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RVCDS received federal funding to provide programs, services and support to children, families and the early childhood community.

According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, Phillips worked at RVCDS from approximately Dec. 1, 1986 to on or about Sept. 1, 2020.

During this time, Phillips was responsible for all financial operations, including monitoring accounts receivable, creating and submitting invoices, reconciling bank accounts and issuing checks. The criminal complaint alleges that on or about April 2, 2002, Phillips opened a BB&T bank account under the name RVCDS without permission from RVCDS. Phillips listed her home address on the bank account and used it to knowingly convert approximately $4.72 million of RVCDS funds to her own use.

The criminal complaint further alleges that Phillips used the embezzled money for her own personal use and to fund Attitude Aviation, a full-service fixed-base operator authorized to provide aeronautical services, including fueling, rental of hangar space, aircraft rental, flight instruction and maintenance. Attitude Aviation has offices at Lawrence County Airpark in South Point, and Tri-State Airport in Huntington, West Virginia. In a filing with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office, Phillips is listed as Attitude Aviation’s secretary and treasurer and she owns Attitude Aviation with at least two other people.

The allegations contained in the criminal complaint are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

If convicted, Phillips faces up to ten years in federal prison.

The FBI and the West Virginia State Police are conducting the investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Kristin F. Scott and Kathleen Robeson are handling the prosecution.