Updated 4 p.m. | Posted 10:01 a.m.
A federal judge on Friday sentenced Bill Davis to four years in prison for stealing taxpayer money meant to aid low-income people and using it instead on a personal car, exotic trips and other perks while he ran Community Action of Minneapolis.
Davis had pleaded guilty in June to taking cash from the nonprofit to buy and deck out a car, to travel to the Bahamas with his girlfriend, to travel to an out-of-town wedding and to attend a Democratic Party function in Puerto Rico. He also said he falsely claimed to be married to get health insurance through the agency for his then-fiancé.
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He'd also been paying his son, Jordan Davis, a salary for a no-show job at a Minneapolis ice cream shop the nonprofit ran as a job training program. In late January, a judge sentenced Jordan Davis to two years in prison for his role in defrauding Community Action of Minneapolis.
The public money that flowed to Community Action of Minneapolis was supposed to go to help the city's low-income residents with heating costs, career assistance and other needed services.
Investigators have said Bill Davis may have taken upwards of $350,000 over the years for personal use, but auditors documented far more overall misspending at the agency.
He has agreed to pay a total of $387,064 in restitution, with more than $100,000 of that going back to the nonprofit. Community Action of Minneapolis, however, is expected to be dissolved with its work moved to a similar countywide nonprofit.
Before Davis received his sentence, he stood before Judge Patrick Schiltz and apologized. He said he was sorry to his family, friends and the community. Davis was hoping to receive a lighter sentence and pleaded his case for leniency.
He told the judge, "I'm a good person who made a bad decision."
Schiltz gave Davis a slightly longer sentence than was called for by the guidelines. Schiltz explained his decision with a scathing assessment of Davis' crimes.
He said Davis was already earning a generous salary of $200,000 a year as the CEO of Community Action Minneapolis — an agency that provided assistance for low-income people. Schiltz said Davis had no reason to steal.
"He was stealing from the poorest of the poor," the judge said.
Davis agreed to pay some of that money back. However, Schiltz said Davis probably stole much more than was discovered during the FBI investigation.
Davis' attorney Susan Gaertner said this chapter in Davis' life and career will not be his last. In the courtroom, Gaertner read passages from letters sent by people who wanted the judge to remember the contributions Davis has made to advancing civil rights and serving those in need.
"Those letters expressed very eloquently to the court that Bill Davis has done a lot for the community and that this activity that lead to his conviction, is not who Bill Davis is," Gaertner read.
As Davis left the courthouse in downtown Minneapolis Friday morning, he declined to comment on the sentence but said, "I'm still digesting it all. It's been a tough day. A tough outcome."
Davis is expected to report to the federal prison camp in Duluth next month.