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Former Avita employee pleads guilty to taking funds
Austin avoids prison, must reimburse about $70,000 taken from nonprofit
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A guilty plea last week ended the case against a former employee of a nonprofit agency who was accused of improperly using funds to allow dozens of children to participate in extracurricular activities.

Kimberly Nicole Austin was sentenced to 20 years probation after pleading guilty to several counts of theft by deception after stealing approximately $70,000 from Avita Community Partners, a Flowery Branch-based nonprofit agency in Northeast Georgia.

The agency receives state and local funding to provide individuals and families with services for people suffering from mental illness, developmental disabilities and addictions.

"The allegations were that she had funneled money that might could have gone to qualified kids to send them to summer camp, but she used it to send other kids who may or may not have financially qualified," Hall County District Attorney Lee Darragh said.

Austin was charged with 20 counts of theft by deception in fall 2009.

Darragh said Austin used some of the money for her own personal purposes, but the majority of the funds were dedicated to sending children to camps.

Some of the funds were used to enroll children in programs with the Gainesville Parks and Recreation Department, as well as other extracurricular programs.

Austin previously worked at Avita, processing applications for the agency's summer recreation programs, but was fired in July 2009. Prior to her firing, she forged applications in order to pay for basketball camps, band dues and dance team expenses at Gainesville High School for several children, including her daughter.

Austin had been a dance team coach at Gainesville High School before her arrest in 2009.

The Department of Administrative Services reimbursed Avita for $54,284. Austin is required to reimburse the total amount, Darragh said.

If Austin does reimburse the agency, she may only serve 10 years of her 20-year probation sentence.

Darragh said Austin did not receive a prison sentence because of her cooperation with both Avita and law enforcement. Avita also requested a probation sentence in the case.

Attempts to contact Rodney Williams, Austin's defense attorney, were unsuccessful.

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