Former Make-A-Wish Iowa CEO accused of embezzling funds

Former Make-A-Wish Iowa CEO accused of embezzling funds
Jennifer Woodley is accused of making 84 unauthorized purchases of more than $23,000 on a charity's credit card. (Polk County Jail)

DES MOINES, Iowa — The former CEO of Make-A-Wish Iowa is accused of embezzling thousands of dollars from the charity that supports sick children, authorities said.

Jennifer Teresa Woodley, 40, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was booked at the Polk County Jail in Des Moines, Iowa, on Thursday on two counts of first-degree theft and one count of the unauthorized use of a credit card, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.

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Woodley was released after posting $30,000 bail, according to Lt. Ryan Evans of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

Woodley’s husband, Matt Woodley, is special assistant to the head basketball coach at Wake Forest University, the Journal reported.

Jennifer Woodley was dismissed from Make-A-Wish Iowa in August over financial irregularities during a compliance review, KCCI reported. She had been with the charity, based in the Des Moines suburb of Urbandale, for about a year, the television station reported.

Woodley had a personal connection with Make-A-Wish because her oldest daughter, Molly Woodley, now 8, received a wish to go to Walt Disney World in Florida, the Journal reported. Both of her daughters have required brain surgery, the Des Moines Register reported in May 2020. The couple have four children.

According to criminal complaints unsealed Friday, Jennifer Woodley secretly awarded herself a $10,000 bonus in October 2019 that had not been approved by the board. The bonus, which Woodley added to a list of legitimate bonuses earned by other employees, cost the organization $15,540, ABC News reported.

Woodley also made 84 unauthorized purchases of more than $23,000 on an organization credit card over a 10-month span, according to the complaint. Woodley allegedly did not reimburse the charity for her personal expenses, according to the criminal complaint.

“As an established nonprofit organization with the single purpose of transforming the lives of children with critical illness, we are sad and disappointed by these events,” Joshua Norton, the charity’s board chairman, said in July.

Dave Farmsworth, the board chairman for Make-A-Wish Iowa, issued a statement Friday.

“Make-A-Wish Iowa is deeply saddened and disappointed by the events that led to criminal charges against the former CEO,” Farmsworth stated. “Make-A-Wish Iowa swiftly dismissed the CEO and notified police last July after an internal compliance review discovered financial irregularities.

“We know we have an obligation to safeguard every dollar given to us,” Farmsworth said. “We take that obligation seriously and will not tolerate any deviation from our compliance requirements.”