NATIONAL NEWS

Ex-Miss Florida pageant director goes to prison for fraud

May 3, 2023, 3:20 PM | Updated: 3:36 pm

MIAMI (AP) — The former executive director of the Miss Florida pageant has been sentenced to more than a year in federal prison for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the organization.

Mary Wickersham, 77, was sentenced last Friday in Miami federal court, according to court records. Earlier this year, she pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, while six other counts were dropped. In addition to prison time, Wickersham, who is also known as Mary Sullivan, must pay $243,000 in restitution.

Wickersham began serving as the executive director of the Miss Florida Scholarship Program in 2002. The program offers educational and financial assistance to young women across the state, and each year the state winner goes on to compete in the Miss America pageant, which Florida has won twice.

According to a criminal complaint, Wickersham formed a Florida corporation named Miss Florida LLC in 2011 and used it to open a bank account in the same name. Without the knowledge or consent of the Miss Florida Scholarship Program, prosecutors said Wickersham redirected money to the Miss Florida LLC bank account, which she controlled.

Wickersham used her position to solicit donations from the program’s recurring business sponsors and donors, claiming the money would be used to fund scholarships for the contestants. Investigators said Wickersham actually used the money for her own personal use and gain.

She left the position in 2018, after which new leadership began to discover financial irregularities. An investigation followed, and Wickersham was eventually arrested last year.

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Ex-Miss Florida pageant director goes to prison for fraud