TAN gets back $312,000 stolen by ex-director

Glenn Burdine, Dena Hughes, Jeff McManus and Peggy Gibson

“This couldn’t have come at a better time,” Triangle Area Network (TAN) executive director Dena Hughes said of receiving restitution in the amount of $312,306.31 from former executive director Peggy Gibson, who admitted to stealing the funds from the nonprofit while she headed the organization. “This is such a blessing.”

TAN, formerly known as Triangle AIDS Network, could have gotten back its money a little sooner, had it agreed to allow the former employee to walk free. When Peggy Gibson was in court in August, she admitted that she stole in excess of $300,000 from the organization she headed in 2013 and 2014. At that time, she and attorney David Barlow told TAN officials and 252nd District Court Judge Raquel West that in exchange for the court allowing Gibson off with just probation on the felony theft charge she was facing, she would pay back the money in full in less than a month.

The deal would have given TAN back the much-needed funding that Gibson spent on lavish trips for her and her family, online shopping sprees and “frivolous crap,” according to Gibson. But it wouldn’t serve justice, according to then TAN board president Jeff McManus, who was staunch in the resolve that if Gibson didn’t receive just punishment for her crimes, she could do this again to someone else. Prior to her theft from TAN, Gibson was allowed to pay back more than $100,000 she admitted to stealing from a previous employer and was spared a criminal record. Had she been prosecuted for that theft, McManus said, TAN would never have hired Gibson to a position in control of the nonprofit’s bank accounts.

For that reason, and with a sense of justice and a need to do what’s right, TAN officials rejected any deal that wouldn’t result in jail time for the woman they once trusted implicitly.

In the end, Gibson was ordered to pay restitution and spend 15 years in prison.

Back in West’s 252nd District Court on Monday, Oct. 17, with attorney Dustin Galmor, Gibson presented a check for the full amount made payable to TAN without any deal in place for leniency. Gibson was hoping the court would agree to halving the 15-year prison sentence previously imposed for the felony theft charge, but Judge West made it clear that any mercy from the court would only occur if supported by Gibson’s victim – TAN.

Former board president McManus said that although he has stepped down from heading the agency he has been the face of for 30 years, he will always be a supporter of the initiatives of TAN and the agency’s mission. And as the chief protagonist charged with seeing that Gibson received more than just a slap on the wrist for her actions, McManus said he is also a supporter of mercy and love despite being wronged in the past.

“We are absolutely in need of that money, and I certainly think (Gibson) should spend some time in jail,” McManus said. “But, as I see it, seven years, I feel like that would be fair.”

TAN director Hughes agreed.

“To witness the trauma this has caused to the organization, to the clients, to the community, it’s fair to have some jail sentence,” Hughes said. “But it’s also fair to show mercy.”

With the support of TAN, West agreed to the reduced sentence of seven years, and TAN left with the restitution check.

Nonprofit targeted again with high-dollar theft