By DON O'BRIEN
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
A Palmyra, Mo., woman pleaded guilty to three felony theft charges Monday after she admitted to stealing from a charity.
During a pre-trial hearing at the Monroe County Courthouse in Paris, Mo., Ronda Oswalt, 47, admitted to stealing $54,000 from the Blue Ryno Foundation while she was working as an event coordinator, according to Marion County Prosecuting Attorney Tom Redington. Oswalt will be sentenced at 10 a.m. Monday in Paris.
Oswalt pleaded guilty to three Class C felony counts of theft of more than $500 and less than $25,000. Class C felonies are punishable for up to seven years in prison.
The Blue Ryno charity was based in southern California but had employed Oswalt as a fundraising coordinator in a Hannibal office. The charity was founded by former Major League Baseball player Ryan Klesko to help critically ill children and their families.
A tax form filed in early 2010 said nearly $19,000 had gone unaccounted for in an unauthorized F&M Bank account opened on the charity's behalf, but Oswalt was accused at her preliminary hearing last November of diverting roughly $52,000 into the account. She allegedly used those funds to write and sign Blue Ryno checks to herself, to her daughter's criminal defense lawyers and to a construction company owned by her daughter's former boyfriend.
The Blue Ryno office in Hannibal opened in 2009. It received $125,000 in state Neighborhood Assistance Program tax credits for the building's restoration and held a high-profile concert fundraiser at Clemens Field that year. The foundation has been largely inactive locally since mid-2010. A spokeswoman for the Missouri Attorney General's Office said last year the state is working to recoup its tax credits.
A call to the Blue Ryno headquarters in La Jolla, Calif., Tuesday was met with a recording saying that the foundation is not currently accepting applications. The foundation's website is no longer active.
Oswalt has been free on a $25,000 bond since her Aug. 2011 arrest.