Crime & Courts

Former head of Alaska nonprofit pleads guilty to stealing more than $34,000

The former chief operating officer of an Anchorage substance abuse and education advocacy group was convicted Monday in state Superior Court for stealing $34,493 from the nonprofit.

Anna Sappah, 54, pleaded guilty to a single felony count of misappropriation of property. She originally faced felony theft and fraud charges.

Judge Michael Spaan sentenced Sappah to 10 years of suspended jail time. If she pays restitution in full within two years, she can apply for an early termination of the sentence.

Sappah already has submitted a "good faith" restitution payment of $15,000, according to testimony.

Sappah managed Alaska Addiction Professionals Association, 207 E. Northern Lights Blvd., from 2009 through 2013. According to charges filed in state court, she had the bank issue her a debit card linked to the AAPA account in 2010 and began stealing money.

The charges stated she used the card to make more than $60,000 in personal purchases by the end of 2013. But defense attorney Pamela Sullivan called that amount an initial estimate.

Cynthia Aiken, treasurer of AAPA, told police that Sappah had reported the nonprofit's account balance to the board of directors for three years "and no one questioned her," the charges said. Sappah was in charge of all of AAPA's financial holdings.

In December 2013, Sappah told the treasurer there was no money in the account, which prompted an audit that discovered the theft, the charges said.

State grants and some member dues primarily fund AAPA.

Sappah said outside the courtroom that she recognizes the harm she caused the association, as well as her family and friends.

"I hope that at some point I can continue to work in the field I've been very passionate about, and help people recover from substance addiction," she said.

Jerzy Shedlock

Jerzy Shedlock is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch News. He left the ADN in 2017.