PASADENA, Texas (KTRK) -- A woman who once worked for the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce will spend 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to stealing more than $1 million from her place of work.
Jamie Huffar pleaded guilty to theft and forgery over a five-year period that started in 2017.
The Harris County District Attorney's Office said Huffar, who worked as a finance director, used several schemes, including opening credit cards using other people's identities and skimming profits from fundraising events.
Officials said she spent the money on cosmetic surgeries, trips abroad and to Disney World, new iPhones and clothing, and seats to watch the Astros in the 2022 World Series.
"Prosecuting white-collar crime like this is an important priority because stealing from small businesses and nonprofits doesn't just hurt the organization, it hurts the people those organizations are trying to help," District Attorney Kim Ogg said. "The evidence our Public Corruption Division uncovered was so overwhelming that this defendant really had no choice but to take responsibility."
According to a release, Huffar, who had no criminal record, was hired as a bookkeeper at the Chamber of Commerce and rose through the organization to become director of finance. She took advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to delay audits and other checks and balances while stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the nonprofit, according to investigators.
In exchange for pleading guilty to two first-degree felonies, three other pending charges were dismissed. Huffar was taken into custody directly after the plea agreement on Friday and cannot appeal the convictions or the punishment.
The case has raised concerns about how you can protect your small business or nonprofit from this kind of embezzlement.
Prosecutors advise that organizations have a robust system of checks and balances, including consistent audits. They should also check accounts on bank websites instead of relying on paper documents, which can be altered.