Hendersonville couple accused of stealing $730K from nonprofit

Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 7:14pm
0327 Risa Woodward dob 01-23-67.jpg
Risa Woodward

Police arrested a local couple Tuesday after a Davidson County grand jury indicted them on charges of stealing more than $700,000 from the American Association for State and Local History, a Nashville-based nonprofit organization.

Risa Woodward, 45, and her husband James Woodward, 48, both of Hendersonville, are charged with felony counts of theft, fraudulent use of a credit card, forgery and identity theft.

Risa Woodward had worked as the finance director at the AASLH since 1994, according to the organization’s website. In addition to stealing funds from the nonprofit, she is also accused of stealing the identity of AASLH CEO Terry Davis.

“The shock and sense of betrayal, the hurt and anger have been palpable,” AASLH council chair Stephen Elliott wrote in a statement posted to the organization's website on Tuesday.

Elliott said the AASLH discovered “alarming financial irregularities” last September. The statement claims the Woodwards conspired to steal $730,315 from the organization.

Risa Woodward's bond was set at $500,000 and James Woodward's bond is $250,000. Both were arrested Tuesday morning.

The AASLH has a membership of roughly 6,000 historians and history-based organizations nationwide, including clients such as Colonial Williamsburg and the Smithsonian Institute, according to its website.

13 Comments on this post:

By: joe41 on 3/28/12 at 5:53

Where are all of the good and honest people? Surely people cannot believe that they can get away with thievery.

By: lawyer006038 on 3/28/12 at 6:32

I guess they are history, honest people and the Woodwards.

By: treehugger7 on 3/28/12 at 6:33

The good and honest people live in civilized states--not Tennessee!

By: budlight on 3/28/12 at 7:10

EEEXX--CUU--SSE me, Treehugger7, I live in TN and I'm honest! Speak for yourself.

By: NewYorker1 on 3/28/12 at 7:37

OH NO, those poor babies.

By: Eye Nose & Now ... on 3/28/12 at 8:15

Stealing from charities is the norm although it is usually those at the top. In Nashville this has gone on with a certain charity for about 58 years and everyone who is informed knows about it, bot they have never been prosecuted.

By: NewYorker1 on 3/28/12 at 8:54

Yet another reason why I no longer donate to charities.

I figured, the taxes that I pay into Uncle Sam is enough. Uncle Sam turns around and gives my tax dollars to people for free i.e. food stamps, housing vouchers, etc. So, that's my charitable contributions.

By: avoidbelmont on 3/28/12 at 8:59

A corrup non-profit in Nashville??? Naw, couldn't be....

By: jeckton on 3/28/12 at 9:48

The question is what kind of oversight did this organization have that it took so long to notice the "irregularity"? Savvy business owners know to watch their finances closer than that.

By: 1kenthomas on 3/28/12 at 2:53

Oversight? Obviously, next to none.

I'm not saying that this wouldn't happen elsewhere, but I've worked with organizations outside Nashville and inside Nashville. It simply seems to me that you have to have a level of laxness in terms of financial oversight and organization, that is eggregious, to have an incident of this nature occur.

How can you not notice $800K missing, in a relatively small organization? You're not looking! And who would donate to such an organization, knowing the level?

Equally, one strong protection against these kinds of incidents is to pay more to hire better people. This lesson also seems lost on a great number of business entities in Nashville, who want to skimp on salaries and get what they pay for.

That is, one look at the pictures, and it's clear these people should never have been handed the financial responsibility they had-- no one with good judgment would do so.

By: Gary Lampman on 3/28/12 at 8:58

Wal Street did the same thing and they were rewarded for stealing from TaxPayers. Non of those crooks were arrested! Go Figure!

By: 1kenthomas on 3/29/12 at 12:46


To by more sympathetic, those kind of financial lessons can be hard to learn. I've had two businesses fail, because of my inability to adequately address employee loss.

I think, especially in the South, we'd like to trust people and want to do so, as if this was 1945. It's not, -- our society has changed. It's often very hard for local business entities to adjust and adopt appropriate proceduces and stances.

That doesn't make it any less necessary. If you want employee loyalty and trust, you have to do the due diligence, put incentives in place, pay people appropriately to get the appropriate class of employee, nurture as necessary, and be willing to fire those who don't improve.

But it isn't easy, at all. I wish we paid far more attention to such development locally, rather than the bottom line-- and I say that as a business owner, who knows that if the "bottom line" is "make or break," you often don't have the time or flexibilty to pay attention to much more, than if you can make payroll and pay the rent.

Sad situation.

By: Moonglow1 on 3/29/12 at 9:46

Moonglow1: "Crooks" are everywhere as in the Rupert Murdock case, the entire Wall Street caper, the big banks, big business, and as evidenced by the too numerous to cite behavior of elected officials in TN and in DC.

And if you are beholden to the NRA, you can now shoot to kill.

So dumb people are "in charge" everywhere. This couple was only emulating our elected officials who have not prosecuted one corporate crook.

Thank goodness for law enforcement. However soon the NRA will take them away too. Why have law enforcement when you can take the law into your own hands. And if you are tea party-you can save $$ by not paying "government" police officers.

This couple should have been caught long before now. Perhaps they are good little Baptists and Pillars of the Community.