Former Make-A-Wish CEO stole thousands from charity, gave herself secret bonus

According to criminal complaints released early Friday, Jennifer Woodley— who is the former CEO of Make-A-Wish, Iowa—began stealing thousands of dollars from the charity a few months into her tenure.

Court documents indicate that Woodley received the position on August 5, 2019. It is unclear what her exact salary was but a source has revealed that her successor, Chris Voggesser, was paid about $140,000 annually.

The shady business reportedly began with a secret $10,000 bonus Woodley granted herself back in October 2019. Then, a total of 84 personal purchases were charged to her company credit card. These expenses, combined with bonuses that were actually approved by the Make-A-Wish board, ended up costing the organization $15,540. In the ten months leading up to Woodley’s arrest, however, this figure shot up to $23,000.

“We’re deeply saddened and disappointed by the events,” Dave Farnsworth, the board chairman for Make-A-Wish Iowa said after removing Woodley from her position. “We thank the Urbandale Police Department for its investigation into this breach of Make-A-Wish’s ethical standards and policies, and we will continue to cooperate with law enforcement. We know that we have an obligation to safeguard every dollar given to us.”

Woodley turned herself in and was booked at the Polk County Jail in Des Moines on Thursday. She’s facing two counts of first-degree theft and the unauthorized use of a credit card. Court records suggest that she’s currently out on bond and living down in North Carolina with her husband and two daughters.

These are class C felonies, so if convicted Woodley could face up to 10 years in prison. Defense attorney Nick Sarcone of Stowers and Sarcone PLC has decided to pick up the case.

“She maintains her innocence and we look forward to our day in court,”  Sarcone said in a press release.

Incidentally, one of Woodley’s daughters, who required brain surgery, actually scored a trip to Disney World through Make-A-Wish before Woodley was brought on as CEO.

The Iowa chapter reports an annual budget of $4 million, with a staff comprised of 16 employees, a 17-member volunteer board, and a pledge to grant 170 wishes for children per year. Woodley is accused of having embezzled tens of thousands of dollars from the organization within the year she was acting as CEO.

It might be tough getting Chris Pratt to stop by Iowa this year but something tells me Night Rider is very available.