The financial records, however, told a different story. When FBI
forensic accountants began analyzing the organization’s finances, they
found that for several years, Ayala didn’t even have her own bank
account. She simply used the Give Us This Day account for her own
benefit and its funds as her personal bankroll.
“This case really
came down to the money trail,” said Brandon Tabbal, one of the FBI
forensic accountants who worked on the case and sorted through thousands
of charges they came to believe were personal expenses.
said some violations were obvious, like payments to luxury retailers,
spas, and Ayala’s own mortgage. Other items, like cash withdrawals, were
harder to prove as misuse of funds but the overall picture was clear.
“You could see that the money would come in from the state, and then she
would immediately divert the funds and spend it on her vacations or
home remodel,” said Tabbal.
“She spent about $175,000 on
renovations, put $126,000 toward her mortgage, spent $133,000 in
travel,” said Swansinger. “And here we had kids not getting basic
necessities and employees not getting paid on time.”
No one at the
organization looked over Ayala’s shoulder. Her employees trusted her,
and the board of directors—whose members all lived out of state—was not
involved in the agency’s day-to-day operations.
At trial, the
assistant U.S. attorney showed a handful of the charts assembled by the
FBI’s forensic accountants to illustrate Ayala’s crimes and undo the
defense’s attempts to justify how she used the organization’s funds.
charts up that documented and traced and tracked all the money, it
really brought it home for the jury how egregious it all was,” said
Williams. He and Swansinger both described the verdict against Ayala as
righteous but also tragic.
“It was one of the more emotional cases
I’ve worked,” reflected Swansinger. “It left behind a scathing hole in
the community and a lot of distrust.”
Tabbal stressed that no
organization should operate without accountability and oversight, as
Give Us This Day did, and that employees should always speak up if they
observe irregularities. “Trust,” he said, “is not an adequate internal