A Fort Bend County jury convicted Andrea Watson Davidson of felony theft in less than 10 minutes on Feb. 3 before recommending she spend 28 years in prison. The 49-year-old Mission Bend woman was charged with stealing millions of dollars from her employer over several years as their bookkeeper.
According to Scott Carpenter, the Economic Crimes Division Chief Prosecutor, Davidson had previously served a deferred adjudication probation for theft for stealing over $100,000 from her employer in Harris County between 2004 and 2008, a fact that was not disclosed to the employer from which Davidson stole.
From 2007 to 2014, Davidson was promoted, with more pay and responsibility. Despite being treated well, she dipped into the company’s funds to support her lifestyle. The state presented evidence at trial that Davidson used part of the money to throw parties at an upscale Houston nightspot, pay for limousines, cruises, suites at sports arenas, and other luxury expenses.
When confronted by her employer, the defendant admitted to the theft and estimated that she used $2 million for her own expenses and gave the rest to her friends, family, and her church. Davidson also provided a sworn affidavit stating that she and her co-conspirators used the funds without the knowledge or consent of her employer, and that her friends and family didn’t know the true source of the funds.
Davidson testified that she would forge company checks to herself and her co-conspirators. When the monthly bank statements would arrive, she would alter the statements using a photocopier and present hard copies to the accountant, who was not provided the originals.
Davidson was finally caught when a credit card fraud department notified the vice president of the company that company funds were being used to pay a non-company credit card account – one belonging to the defendant. Davidson stated she had no money left, was actually in debt, and had an unpaid mortgage on her home.
At the close of the guilt/innocence phase of trial, the defense conceded Davidson was guilty but to take into consideration all the facts of the case. The defendant had testified that her low self-esteem prompted her to steal the funds to create a lifestyle that would make herself feel better and seem more attractive to other people. After the jury found the defendant guilty in less than 10 minutes, the defendant and her friends testified on her behalf and pled for leniency.
The defense continued to make excuses for Davidson during the punishment phase, including an attack on her employer’s accounting department, arguing that the company trusted Davidson too much and there should have been more oversight. Other defense witnesses stated the defendant was a good churchgoing person, and that if she sinned, she should be forgiven. Though the evidence showed that some of the stolen money was given to Davidson’s church and its members, neither the church’s pastor nor its members offered to return the gift of stolen money.
The prosecution argued that Davidson did not make one mistake, but made several choices and that her theft was a conscious and deliberate decision to deprive hardworking people of their efforts. The jury also learned that Davidson had been on probation for theft before and continued her conduct, demonstrating efforts at rehabilitation had already failed. The defense, in their closing, agreed that Davidson did not deserve probation, but argued for a light sentence.
After deliberating for three hours, the jury returned a verdict of 28 years in prison with a $10,000 fine.
“There is no excuse to take money that isn’t yours, let alone $8 million,” said Scott Carpenter, lead counsel on the case. “I hope she, along with the Fort Bend County community, realize that crime doesn’t pay.”
Davidson was tried in the 400th District Court before Presiding Judge Maggie Jaramillo. Theft in this case is a first-degree felony punishable by 5-99 years or life in prison and a fine up to $10,000. Davidson was eligible to receive standard, non-deferred probation.
Assistant District Attorneys Scott Carpenter and Abdul Farukhi prosecuted the case. Attorney James Rivera represented the defendant.