The wife of a Navy SEAL was sentenced today to a year and six months in prison for stealing more than $120,000 from a charity that helps SEALs and their families during times of crisis.
pleaded guilty last year to embezzling from her employer, the Navy SEAL Foundation, and using the money on lavish personal expenses, including a vacation in Lake Tahoe, chartering a private jet, a personal trainer, hotel stays and a family trip to Boston, which included first-class plane tickets, a limousine service and tickets to a Red Sox game.
Circuit Judge Les Lilley told Mason her actions were “bold and brazen” and demanded a stiffer punishment than state sentencing guidelines, which recommended probation and no prison time.
Prosecutor Sara Chandler cited the work of the Navy SEAL Foundation and the people it supports while arguing for the harsher sentence. The charity based at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creekhelps care for surviving family members after a SEAL is killed in combat and often pays for medical expenses not covered by the military.
“She stole from a charity, and it’s not just any charity,” Chandler said. “The work they do, the people they support are a unique class of people. This organization is essential to the welfare of men who put their lives on the line for all of the rest of us, including Mrs. Mason. … That’s who she stole from.”
Mason began working part-time for the SEAL Foundation in 2010, not long after the charity had helped pay medical bills for her and her SEAL husband following a difficult pregnancy. Mason began stealing from the Foundation in 2013, according to a stipulation of facts presented at sentencing.
Mason worked about 30 hours a week and handled accounts payable, giving her unmonitored access to foundation bank accounts and credit cards. In addition to the travel and personal trainer, Mason had been using foundation funds to pay her monthly childcare bill and for a special cell phone plan for her husband to use while deployed overseas.
The total amount stolen is estimated between $121,000 and $170,000.
Foundation CEO Robin King told the court she discovered the fraud a year ago and confronted Mason. She initially denied the embezzlement, then admitted to only a small portion of the theft before finally coming clean.
Mason and her family have repaid most of the money and are committed to repaying the rest within the next three months. But there is no way to estimate how the episode has affected the SEAL Foundation’s reputation, especially among donors, King said.
“With nonprofits, your reputation is everything,” King said. “None of this is fun. It’s an awful situation for the foundation, for Tammy, for our donors and for our reputation.”
Mason stood to apologize for her actions before a bailiff placed her in handcuffs and took her into custody.
“I am extremely sorry for what has happened,” she said.
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