Appalachian Children's Chorus alumna stunned by embezzlement charges
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WCHS/WVAH) —
The Appalachian Children's Chorus Executive Director, Jacqueline Portillo, allegedly stole $100,000 from the nonprofit.
Portillo pleaded guilty on Monday to four felony embezzlement charges, shocking many alumnae of the of the chorus, including Drew “Jazmyne” Carter.
Since Carter sang in the Appalachian Children’s Chorus, Portillo began to rack up costs in personal travel expenses, veterinary treatments and items for herself and others, according to a news release from Prosecuting Attorney Charles Miller’s office.
"It's appalling to be honest. It's like stealing money from children. Children are our future and our next generation, we need to uplift them,” Carter said.
Portillo pleaded guilty to embezzling the money through credit cards and falsified bank statements from 2010 until she was fired from her position in 2017.
"It's a non-profit, so I have no idea if the money's going to come back, if they're going to have funding and that is just appalling, because there's so many children that want that that need this kind of program. It's a shame that somebody can't think of other people than themselves,” Carter said.
Charleston lawyer, JB Akers is representing the chorus. After the non-profit organization reached out to him for advice, Akers decided to take on the case pro-bono, and he's hoping the community will continue to support the chorus now more than ever.
"They can't just take this money and see it disappear and not worry about it. They need to get this money back if they can, and that will come from the community and the broader state at large,” Akers said.
The Appalachian Children's Chorus is the official children's chorus of West Virginia and is not cheap to join, but many members, like Carter receive scholarships to be a part of the group, giving them opportunities they would've never had otherwise.
"We grow as a family and we support each other through everything in ACC," Carter said. "I really hope they can continue it because it changes children’s lives into adults.”
Portillo will be sentenced in late July. Right now the chorus is being run by the founder and artistic director, Selena Midkiff.