Friday, April 16, 2010

Former Oklahoma church secretary pleads "no contest" to embezzlement

The former secretary of Assumption Church of Duncan, Maria Lamar, has pleaded "no contest" to embezzling thousands of dollars from her church.
While Lamar has not admitted guilt, she will not provide any defense to the charges. Monday Lamar pleaded no contest to two counts of obtaining property by false pretenses. What might complicate things is she is the wife of Stephens County Special District Judge Carl Lamar.
Lamar is not looking at prison time. She has been sentenced to one-year probation and is ordered to seek counseling in addition to paying restitution to the church for the money she embezzled.
The prosecutor says Lamar received no special treatment just because her husband is a judge. He says he sought the same punishment for Lamar that he would have sought for anyone else who committed the same crime.
Investigators say it all started at the Assumption Church of Duncan last summer. Money slowly disappeared from the church's account, about $2,000 in all.
"She used the churches accounts for obtaining some property," said Special Prosecutor George Burnett.
Burnett says Lamar dipped into the churches account to pay for personal items.
"Basically she was using the churches check book to pay for some minor things like haircuts and things like that," said Burnett.
Burnett says the church not only paid for Lamar to get her hair done, but also for maintenance to her car and home.
"The two largest things were a set of tires and an air conditioner."
Burnett says Lamar did not offer up a reason to why she took the money, other than she was going through a tough time.
"I think she had some emotional issues going on at this time."
Issues or not, Burnett says Lamar's actions cannot be justified and now she has to pay, but not in the form of jail time and there are good reasons why.
"Never been in trouble before, she's willing to make restitution, it's not a great amount of money, not like a $500,000 embezzlement."
Burnett says some people might think Lamar got special treatment since her husband is a judge, but he says this was not the case. In fact, the court made sure that would not happen by bringing in Burnett from another county.
"Because it involves a district judges wife from this district, because they work routinely with him, rather then have a conflict of interest, they refused and assigned another district attorney."
Burnett also says it would have been a conflict of interest if a judge from the same district presided over Lamar's hearing. That is why a judge from outside the district was brought in as well.
7NEWS tried to talk with officials at the Assumption Church of Duncan and called the Catholic Archdiocese Chancellor in Oklahoma City for comment, but they both declined.

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