Nelda Jean Nicholson of Phoenix was sentenced on July 14 to 3 ½ years in prison for stealing more than $100,000 from a Phoenix healthcare provider and a Scottsdale church. Nicholson, who served as a bookkeeper for both groups, had been arrested by officers from the Attorney General’s Office and the Phoenix Police Department in January.
On June 12, 2015 Nicholson pled guilty to two counts of Fraudulent Schemes and Artifices, and two counts of Theft.
In addition to her prison sentence, Nicholson was ordered to pay almost $100,000 to the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) for the misappropriation of public monies for which she was responsible, while employed as the Chief Financial Officer for the non-profit organization Visions of Hope. Nicholson used her position to commit fraud by issuing checks to herself. She would then enter the checks as being issued to other individuals and/or entities to cover her activities. Nicholson was accused of issuing 124 checks to herself between December 2009 and October 2012.
Nicholson was also ordered to pay the Resurrection Lutheran Church over $21,000 as restitution for checks that she wrote to herself between October 2013 and June 2014, while working as a bookkeeper at the Scottsdale church. Nicholson was responsible for posting the church’s contributions and donations, as well as receiving and paying invoices. The thefts were discovered when the true authorized signer for the church discovered that Nicholson had forged required signatures in making checks payable to herself.
“Justice has been served,” said Attorney General Brnovich. “People who abuse their positions to steal from organizations that are improving our community, will be aggressively prosecuted by this office.”