Aug. 13, 2014 – Cobb District Attorney Vic Reynolds announces that the former manager of the Lake Allatoona Preservation Authority has admitted stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the organization. Ronald Joseph Papaleoni was sentenced to 15 years on probation, and a separate hearing to determine the amount of restitution is scheduled for next month.

Mr. Papaleoni, 70, of Acworth, pleaded guilty this morning to five counts of theft, including theft by a fiduciary and theft by a government employee. Mr. Papaleoni ran a company called Premier Management that handled the funds of the Authority, which is a government entity, and also some nonprofit groups.

From 2007 to 2009 while Mr. Papaleoni was employed as the general manager of the Authority, also known as LAPA, he wrote multiple unauthorized checks to himself. In at least one instance, he also wrote a $5,000 check from LAPA to the Joy Foundation, which he created and controlled. The Joy Foundation put on annual “Shop with a Cop” events for underprivileged children during which Mr. Papaleoni also dressed up as Santa Claus.

Assistant District Attorney Jason Marbutt said he believes evidence will show the amount taken is about $150,000, while the defense believes it is much less. The purpose of the restitution hearing, set for Sept. 19, is for the judge to make a determination as to what amount was taken, as well as Mr. Papaleoni’s ability to pay it back.

Mr. Papaleoni’s age and charitable work were factors in allowing a sentence of probation, ADA Marbutt said, but he urged Cobb Superior Court Judge Mary E. Staley to deny First Offender status, which would allow Mr. Papaleoni to avoid a felony record.

“There needs to be a felony record that shows what he did and that he can’t be trusted,” ADA Marbutt said. “The breach of trust is the greater offense. This was not a one-time mistake.”

Judge Staley agreed. “This is not a First Offender case. This was repetitive behavior. It was taking advantage of someone who gave you trust,” she said.

Judge Staley was also undeterred when Mr. Papaleoni’s attorney, Rick Kimberly, said his client hoped to take jobs playing Santa Claus to help pay the restitution, but would be unable to do so with a felony conviction.

The case was investigated by the Cobb Sheriff’s Office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.