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News / Clark County News

Former director of Vancouver nonprofit sentenced for theft

Deputy prosecutor says Erika Laws spent $25,000 at casinos, restaurants

By Becca Robbins, Columbian staff reporter
Published: March 9, 2023, 6:00am

The former director of a networking group for women in business was sentenced Wednesday to 10 days on a work crew for stealing money from the Vancouver nonprofit.

Erika Laws, 44, pleaded guilty in Clark County Superior Court to third-degree theft, which is a gross misdemeanor. She was originally charged with first-degree theft.

Laws was the executive director of Impactful Women NW, which achieved 501(c)(3) public charity exemption status in February 2016, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Deputy Prosecutor Scott Ikata told the judge Wednesday that between 2017 and 2019, Laws misappropriated $25,000 of the organization’s money and spent it at ilani, restaurants and other casinos.

Court records state a bank account for the nonprofit was created in April 2017, and before that, all of the charity’s finances were commingled with Laws’ personal bank account and that of her business.

Laws’ defense attorney, John Terry, described her actions as “very sloppy and inappropriate” but said it amounted to poor bookkeeping during her time as the director. He said she used the wrong card, sometimes paid the money back to the nonprofit’s accounts and didn’t do so at other times. Before charges were filed, she wrote a check back to the nonprofit for the amount she believed she’d spent, he said.

Laws, who now lives in Las Vegas, said she’s taken accountability for her actions.

In April 2019, the organization’s governing board voted to remove Laws as the executive director and began dissolving the nonprofit. The board previously filed a victim impact statement with the court.

The statement says the board members’ reputations were tarnished when they dissolved the organization.

“Many people in the community thought our actions in dissolving the board after removing Erika as the executive director were excessive and out of line. Our integrity, professionalism and compassion were questioned, but at the time, we couldn’t say anything because she was under investigation. … Recalling everything that went down, the facade she wore and the dumpster fires that were left in her wake stir up the anger, frustration and utter disappointment all over again,” the statement reads.