PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — Former Milton Mayor Guy Thompson was sentenced Friday to 51 months in federal prison.
Thompson, 66, had pleaded guilty last year of 20 counts of wire fraud and three counts of tax evasion. The charges stemmed from his efforts over at least seven years to defraud the United Way of Santa Rosa County of money meant to go to charities.
From 2011 to 2018, federal prosecutors say Thompson embezzled more than $652,000 through a fraudulent scheme. Prosecutors say an FBI investigation revealed Thompson intercepted checks meant for the United Way at a P.O. Box in Milton. He would then pocket part of those checks, telling bank tellers it would be used as petty cash to operate the United Way. The rest of the check was then deposited into the United Way operating fund bank account.
Prosecutors say Thompson executed this scheme hundreds of times, racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars he used to buy a condo, luxury car and more.
Prosecutors say Thompson kept his scheme hidden by dissuading United Way board members from voting on engaging in an internal audit. The trust the Milton community had in him also allowed the scheme to slip through the cracks, prosecutors said Friday.
Thompson’s actions, prosecutors say, led to the United Way of Santa Rosa County losing its charter.
Before sentencing, Thompson’s defense attorney argued that mental illness and depression led Thompson to committing criminal activity, despite his otherwise clean record.
Mental health counselor John Bingham testified that during Thompson’s mental evaluation, he expressed remorse for his actions.
“As a result of years of depression, he became emotionally bankrupt,” Bingham said. “He had a drive to care for his family. His family were big spenders, and he couldn’t keep up.”
Prosecutors argued Thompson’s scheme and deliberate actions led to the failure of the United Way of Santa Rosa County, leaving thousands of impoverished people without the care or the programs they would have otherwise had.
Thompson was not taken into custody on Friday but rather ordered to report to a federal prison by March 2 at noon. The judge recommended he spend his sentence at the federal prison camp in Pensacola but said he must first be medically cleared to do so.
Thompson stated to a crowded courtroom before his sentencing that he apologized and was ashamed of his actions.
“I’m very sorry. I wish it would have never happened. It’s out of character,” Thompson said. “I let a lot of people down. I am ashamed of what I have done and I ask for forgiveness.”
Thompson served 20 years as Milton’s mayor and 16 years on its council. He was the head of the United Way of Santa Rosa County for 39 years. Victims testified Friday they had to wonder if he had committed other crimes during his tenure.
“You are the opposite of Robin,” one victim said. “You stole from the poor and gave to yourself.”
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