Mary Wickersham has been the executive head of the Miss Florida Scholarship Program since 2002. Her job is to raise money for pageant contestants.
But over the past 10 years, U.S. officials say, her charity work turned out to be nothing more than a plan to steal money from donors and make herself rich. Wickersham, who is 77 years old, admitted that she used grant money for things like shopping trips and online dating fees. A federal judge in Miami gave her a jail sentence of one year and three months last week.
Wickersham has to turn himself into federal jail officials at the end of June.
Wickersham, who went by the names Mary Sullivan or Mary Harvey, put money into a bank account that only she could access, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents who looked into the case for federal officials. They said she even tricked a few businesses, groups, and people into giving her money, which she then kept for herself.
Altogether, she made $243,000. U.S. District Judge Roy Altman told her she had to pay back the people she hurt as part of her sentence.
The Everglades Foundation, one of the biggest environmental groups in the state, Anne Marie’s Boutique, a small shop in Homestead, and the Children’s Miracle Network, a nonprofit that raises money for children’s hospitals in the U.S. and Canada, are just a few of these groups.
Also on the list of people who were tricked was a woman named L.R. who used to be Miss Florida.
“Not only did Ms. Wickersham steal money from the scholarship program, but she also stole from two other local charities and a business with ties to Miss Florida,” said FDLE Miami Special Agent in Charge Troy Walker when she was arrested last year.
Wickersham Set Up a Fake Business
A federal charge says that Wickersham set up a fake business called Miss Florida LLC and used it to open an account with Bank of America in 2011. She set up the business before she knew about the Miss Florida Scholarship Program.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release, “Wickersham then moved hundreds of thousands of dollars into the Miss Florida LLC bank account, which she controlled, by using her position as director to ask the program’s regular business sponsors and donors for donations while saying that the money would be used to fund scholarships for the Miss Florida program.”
Prosecutors say she spent the money on things like bills, shopping sprees, home goods, eating out, and even hiring a cleaning service for her home.
Someone at the Miss Florida Scholarship Program told the FDLE that money was missing, so they started looking into Wickersham.
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