Ed Payton, the former executive director of Mecklenburg Open Door, was sentenced Thursday to 18 months in prison for unlawfully taking up to $120,000 from the publicly funded mental health contractor.
Defense attorney Kevin Tate had urged the judge to put Payton on probation.
This was not a crime of greed, Tate told the judge. It was a crime of overstepping the authority he had Mr. Payton was a well respected executive in this community. All that was lost. I dont know how much more he can be punished.
But U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn told Payton he could not put him on probation.
Im going to have to sentence you to prison, the judge said. This is a bad thing.
Cogburn also ordered Payton to pay $131,169 in restitution.
Payton pleaded guilty to knowingly and willingly converting without authority money and other property from the now-defunct agency, which was one of Mecklenburg Countys largest mental health contractors. He also pleaded guilty to failing to file his 2008 tax returns.
An internal audit commissioned by the nonprofit agency found that Payton took out more than $147,000 in unauthorized loans and charged nearly $53,000 more in unsubstantiated bills on his company credit cards. The credit card charges included veterinary services, dental work and grocery bills.
Payton, who received an annual salary of $85,000 during much of his tenure, claimed he took the additional money to pay alimony, child support, tax liens and garnishments, according to court documents.