An embezzlement case that shook the public nonprofit responsible for downtown improvement nearly five years ago came to a close in federal court when a former bookkeeper was sentenced to 33 months in prison.

Alicia Henderson received the prison sentence Aug. 5 and was ordered to pay $356,104.23 in restitution following her 2020 guilty plea. She embezzled $291,000 from Centro San Antonio over a two-year period.

The sentencing comes four years and eight months after the organization disclosed a staffer embezzled funds without being detected by management. Centro San Antonio is a nonprofit that bridges private developers and local government to better downtown.

U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez sentenced Henderson to 33 months in prison for financial and tax fraud and ordered her to serve three years of supervised release and pay $356,104.23 in restitution. 

On Wednesday, the organization’s CEO Matt Brown told the San Antonio Report that Centro was glad justice was served.

Alicia Henderson, a former bookkeeper for Centro San Antonio has been sentenced to 33 months in prison for embezzlement.
Alicia Henderson, a former bookkeeper for Centro San Antonio, has been sentenced to 33 months in prison for embezzlement.

“We hope this result provides additional closure to all those who were directly impacted. Our team’s hard work has been ongoing and it will continue to create a more beautiful, welcoming, playful, and prosperous downtown in the spirit of San Antonio,” wrote Brown.

Henderson’s embezzlement went on from July 2014 to November 2017 and included an elaborate, fake audit to cover up the scheme that included fabricated emails and websites, and at least one other person who impersonated an auditor. 

During that time frame, Henderson forged a total of 118 checks, drawn on the nonprofit’s bank account. Those funds were deposited into her personal bank account and used for her personal benefit. Funds totaled $291,385.23, and were not reported on her federal tax forms. Henderson owed $64,719 in taxes for 2014 to 2016.

Henderson, who was hired as office manager and bookkeeper in 2015 from a temp agency, apparently never underwent a background check, in which leadership would have discovered she had a criminal background. She was later fired from Centro in November 2017 after the nonprofit’s leadership discovered the scheme. 

Following the discovery of the embezzlement, Centro’s then-CEO, Pat DiGiovanni, who had led the organization since 2012, resigned, although he was found to not be involved in any wrongdoing.

There was an apparent delay in charging Henderson six weeks after she was accused of the crimes. Then, the case was still under investigation, officials said, which included the San Antonio Police Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Henderson’s sentencing also was delayed.

According to a spokeswoman of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Western District of Texas, the office filed the charging document with the court in September 2020, and the defendant pleaded guilty one month later. It then took almost two years for Henderson to receive her sentence. 

“Between the guilty plea and the sentencing, the defendant filed multiple unopposed motions for continuances, which were granted by the court,” wrote the spokeswoman via email to the San Antonio Report. 

“I cannot speculate when the case came to the attention of the investigative agencies, the FBI and IRS.  Of course, depending on the circumstances, an investigation can take some time to be thoroughly vetted,” she wrote. 

Raquel Torres is the San Antonio Report's breaking news reporter. A 2020 graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University, her work has been recognized by the Texas Managing Editors. She previously worked...