The “Church Lady” Fraudster

Ever wonder where your church tithing money goes?  Apparently, an accounting clerk for the Archdiocese of New York spent seven years lavishly spending $1M of her church’s money on a high-end doll collection, works of art, and expensive clothing, jewelry, and furniture.  The 67 year old lady was described as a quiet and unassuming “church lady”, and the last person one would have suspected of this type of crime.  (I’m picturing Enid Strict, the church lady played by Dana Carvey on Saturday Night Live!) All the while, her complex scheme drained money from an education fund at the same time the church was closing Catholic schools.

A background check of the “church lady” would have uncovered that she actually was a fraudster who had a history of stealing from her employers. In 1999, she was arrested and convicted of grand larceny for stealing $46,000 from a New York City temporary agency, a crime that she confessed to. She received five years’ probation for this crime and was still on probation when she began working for the Archdiocese. She was also arrested in 1986 for grand larceny and forgery for stealing from another employer, a crime for which she served more than a year’s probation.

A criminal history record check would have prevented this fraud, the problems it caused, and the ensuing embarrassment to the Archdiocese.  Employers take heed – in this economic environment, it is more important than ever to ensure that all employees, especially those entrusted with the company’s finances, are vetted before hiring (even quiet and unassuming church ladies).