The former executive director of the Downtown Pasco Development Authority pleaded guilty Tuesday but agreed to work with the state Auditor’s Office as it investigates his embezzlement.
Michael A. Goins, 36, admitted Tuesday to taking at least $90,000 over a two-year period. The guilty plea in Franklin County Superior Court came just five weeks after his arrest.
In addition to first-degree theft, Goins admitted the aggravating factors that the loss was much greater than is typical, the money was taken during several incidents and he used his position of trust to steal.
Goins, in his written plea statement, said the money was taken in small amounts between July 2013 and December 2015. The downtown authority is a public agency and is partially funded with taxpayer dollars.
“The funds taken were used on personal matters and not with the permission of the association,” he wrote.
Goins typically would face up to three months in the county jail for the theft because of his lack of criminal history.
However, both county Prosecutor Shawn Sant and defense attorney Daniel Stovern agreed that an exceptional sentence is more appropriate given the circumstances.
Sant said his recommendation for one year in a state prison will stand “so long as the total amount of restitution does not exceed $150,000.”
A tentative sentencing date is scheduled Jan. 26.
Sant also told the judge his office will not file “any further criminal charges from this time period relating to theft, fraud, embezzlement or other similar wrongdoing associated with (Goins) taking money from the DPDA.”
Mike Miller, president of the agency’s board, acknowledged later Tuesday that it is a sad situation.
We’re looking forward to closing this chapter of DPDA’s life, and we appreciate the cooperation that Michael Goins is going through at this point.
Mike Miller, board president
He said the group is figuring out how to continue on in a positive way and “trying to get back into something called normal.”
“We’re looking forward to closing this chapter of DPDA’s life, and we appreciate the cooperation that Michael Goins is going through at this point,” Miller told the Herald.
“We still have lots of work to be done, in terms of the forensic side of it through the state auditor and the (certified public accountant) that’s working to make sure that the numbers are all correct to provide to the prosecuting attorney to come up with a fair settlement.”
In court, Sant told Judge Carrie Runge that the amount of restitution will be determined once the audit is done.
Goins remains in the Franklin County jail in lieu of $100,000 bail.
Goins agreed to help the state auditor with the investigation, including access to bank accounts and other records. That is to his benefit because if the audit comes back with a lower amount of missing money, then Goins will not owe so much, Sant said.
Goins was in charge of its financial affairs, including overseeing bank accounts and payroll, and writing all checks.
He told Pasco detectives that he moved money from one account to another so it would go unnoticed, and pocketed money to pay for personal bills and airplane tickets.
Goins told Pasco detectives that he moved money from one account to another so it would go unnoticed, and pocketed money to pay for personal bills and airplane tickets.
Goins earned about $50,000 per year. By issuing his own paycheck, he was able to exclude court-ordered garnishments for child support, according to court documents.
The theft was discovered in November after Miller learned of delinquent bills, unpaid taxes and the $26,000 Goins owed in back child support, documents said.
Goins reportedly tried to commit suicide with wine and prescription pills once officials found the discrepancies. Goins spent some time in a psychiatric facility before his Dec. 1 arrest.
The police investigation revealed he apparently embezzled money from a previous employer in New Jersey and fled to Washington after his scheme was discovered. That case was never reported to police.
Court documents say Goins left his wife and two kids behind in New Jersey. A missing person report was filed after he vanished.
Goins was hired by the downtown association in 2012. The board voted unanimously to fire him in mid-December.
We are, as a board and as an organization, still going to have to deal with what procedures and processes there are and get as many safeguards in place to make sure this does not happen again.
Mike Miller, board president
Miller said the search for a new executive director should begin later this month. The board, which has two open positions, has started planning for its Cinco de Mayo event and Food Truck Friday.
“We are, as a board and as an organization, still going to have to deal with what procedures and processes there are and get as many safeguards in place to make sure this does not happen again,” he said.