Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

November 22, 2013

Owens, Nicholson plead guilty

Both used positions of trust to steal from non-profit groups

By Janet Jacobs
Corsicana Daily Sun

— Two thieves who used their positions as volunteers to steal donations pleaded guilty Friday and were sentenced to prison sentences — Christal Owens and Tim Nicholson.

Owens, 32, who is accused of stealing more than $28,000 from the Derrick Days festival while she was working as the committee’s treasurer, was sentenced to 13 months in state jail when she pleaded guilty to three counts of credit or debit card abuse, according to District Attorney Lowell Thompson.

County Court at Law Judge Amanda Putman accepted her guilty plea and ordered Owens to pay $259 in court costs, and $28,538.60 in restitution. Owens also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor theft, for which she was ordered to spend 120 days in county jail, pay a $500 fine and pay an additional $294 in court costs, Thompson said.

Owens was a volunteer with the Derrick Days organizing committee when it was discovered that she’d used the festival’s debit card to drain the bank account. The 2013 event came off successfully, but the theft created a whole new layer of frustration for organizers involved with the event.

“Of course, I’d like it to be five years, but at least I feel like there’s consequences for her actions,” said Fran Townes, president of the Derrick Days committee. “It was horrible. When you sit back and look at it we were too trusting. Obviously, that will never happen again, and we’ll never have debit cards again, which also makes our job harder. And we have to be less trusting, which is sort of sad, but I’m thrilled that she got some time.”

Nicholson, 47, was the treasurer for the Dresden Cemetery Association, and he was sentenced to 17 years in prison Friday after pleading guilty to one count of theft before Judge James Lagomarsino.

In addition to the prison time, Nicholson was ordered to pay back $453,518.73. The cemetery association believe he stole more than $700,000, but that was all the forensic accountants could tie back to him, Thompson said. Investigators were also able to track a few of the purchases that Nicholson made with the money, and he agreed to give those up to the cemetery association.

“He agreed to forfeit interest in the truck he owns, also we tracked down some property we could tie back to the Dresden Cemetery Association, a GE gas range, some miscellaneous furniture, an area rug, and two gold rings. The cemetery association can sell those to offset some of the restitution,” Thompson said.

Both were eligible for probation, but that wasn’t offered as part of their plea agreements.