The former president and CEO of a San Diego cancer charity admitted Tuesday to stealing thousands of dollars meant to help sick children.
Brianna King pleaded guilty in San Diego Superior Court to grand theft in connection to her time at the helm of nonprofit WishWarriors. The district attorney’s office opened a criminal investigation into King after an NBC 7 Investigation revealed children profiled by the charity never received the donations they were promised.
In early July, a WishWarriors board member confirmed most of the money raised by the charity appeared to be gone.
According to Deputy District Attorney James Teh, if King pays at least $10,000 in restitution to WishWarriors by December, prosecutors will not oppose her request to serve jail time in San Diego. He said that $10,000 figure gives you an idea of the amount she admitted to stealing.
The Harvey family of Rancho Penasquitos were the first to bring concerns about King and WishWarriors to NBC 7 Investigates. They said after their 13-year-old daughter, Kasey, was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma cancer last year, WishWarriors reached out and promised the family financial support if the organization could highlight them.
They agreed but have never seen any money from the organization, despite participating in WishWarriors-sponsored fundraisers. The family of Maddie Taylor, a 12-year-old battling bone cancer, tells a similar story.
Georgine Taylor, Maddie’s mother, told NBC 7 Investigates she is glad this ordeal is almost over because this is the last thing their daughter should worry about.
“She’s having a hard time with the why and how, and we just have to keep her attention to and keep her motivated and keep her focused on the goal,” said Georgine.
She said her family will be there for other victims, hoping to prevent such theft from happening again.
WishWarriors directors sent NBC 7 Investigates a statement Tuesday that said they are happy to learn about King’s guilty plea.
“We are hopeful that we will receive the partial restitution of the funds that were stolen from the organization; however, we do not know when or how such payment will be made,” the statement reads in part.
If they do receive restitution, directors said they will make sure the families most affected by King’s “deceit” get the money they were promised. The charity’s board of directors will meet within the next two weeks to determine the future for WishWarriors. Read the directors’ full statement by clicking here.
King’s sentencing, scheduled for Dec. 9, is not the end of her legal troubles. Another warrant from Riverside County, unrelated to the WishWarriors case, is still active for King. A 2005 misdemeanor complaint alleges King wrote bad checks, totaling $377, to two stores. After not appearing in court an arrest warrant was issued.
NBC 7 Investigates first reported on King’s criminal history in July. In San Diego County, King was sentenced to probation after pleading guilty in 2004 to four misdemeanor counts for using fraudulent checks and burglary. Though she was ordered to pay $2,905, probation documents show she never paid the full amount.
In 2007, King pleaded guilty in Orange County to felony charges for burglary and writing bad checks.