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A Delco woman stole food vouchers from AIDS patients — and gave many of them to others in need

Barbara Conway Williams, the ex-head of the voucher program for the Philadelphia Health Management Corporation, was sentenced to 3 years' probation Tuesday. She has paid back most of what she stole.

The James A. Byrne U.S. District Courthouse at 6th and Market Streets in Philadelphia.
The James A. Byrne U.S. District Courthouse at 6th and Market Streets in Philadelphia.Read moreTYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer

A Delaware County woman who admitted to stealing nearly $40,000 in food vouchers intended for HIV and AIDS patients in need was sentenced to three years’ probation Tuesday.

Barbara Conway Williams, 63, of Drexel Hill, said she gave a significant number of the vouchers she stole to struggling people at her church or others she felt were in need.

Once confronted, she confessed her crimes immediately and drained her pension to pay back most of what she stole.

“I’m extremely remorseful for everything that happened,” Conway told U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson. “This has been mortifying to me.”

Still, prosecutors argued, that no matter how altruistic she had been, her theft had still deprived potentially hundreds of sick patients of money the federal government had allocated to feed them.

“She took them away from … people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS who are facing a significant immediate crisis and require emergency resources,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard P. Barrett wrote in court papers prior to the hearing.

At the time of the theft, Conway was working as the administrator of the food voucher program at the Philadelphia Health Management Corporation — a nonprofit public health institute that receives thousands of federal dollars each year through the city’s Department of Public Health.

Some of that money went toward supporting the food voucher program from which Conway stole between 2010 and 2019.

The theft was eventually uncovered by an internal PHMC audit and Conway was fired as a result.

Since then, Conway has secured work at a home-help agency. Friends and family described her decade-long theft at her previous job as an anomaly in the life of a woman who has devoted countless hours to volunteering at church, hosting fund-raisers for community events, and supporting local Girl and Boy Scout troops.

“My mother is … always looking out for others, never one to tell someone no,” her son Radeam Conway, 45, told the court. “She’s giving to a fault.”

Baylson, noting Conway’s lack of a prior criminal record and the significant amount she had already paid back to PHMC, agreed and spared her from having to serve a prison term.

She could have faced a maximum prison term of up to 10 years. Federal sentencing guidelines in her case called for a prison sentence of up to six months.

“I think it’s very unfortunate, whatever tempted you to take this money and led you astray,” the judge told Conway. “But you deserve credit for coming forward and admitting it.”

In addition to the term of probation, Baylson ordered her to pay an additional $12,766 — the remaining balance on the $40,000 worth of vouchers she still owes.