ACWORTH, Ga. -- An Acworth man who played Santa Claus during a Shop with a Cop event will now spend 15 years on probation from stealing money from his company.

Ronald Joseph Papaleoni, 70, pleaded guilty Wednesday to five counts of theft. He admitted to taking thousands of dollars from the Lake Allatoona Preservation Authority (LAPA). Papaleoni's company, Premier Management, handled the authority's funds.

Prosecutors said that between 2007 and 2009, Papaleoni wrote multiple checks to himself from LAPA while working as its general manager. Cobb County Assistant District Attorney Jason Marbutt said he believes Papaleoni took $150,000, but the defense argued the total amount was much less.

In one case, Papaleoni wrote a $5,000 check from LAPA to the Joy Foundation, an organization he started. Papaleoni dressed up as Santa Claus for the Joy Foundation's Shop with a Cop event for underprivileged children, according to the investigation.

Marbutt said Papaleoni's age and many charitable contributions helped him get probation instead of prison time, but he was not given First Offender status because of the number of times he stole from LAPA.

A restitution hearing for Papaleoni is scheduled for Sept. 19.

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