Saturday, July 31, 2010

Ex-Oklahoma State University employee accused of misusing university credit card

An Oklahoma State University employee was charged Friday with felony embezzlement on accusations that she used a university purchase card to buy a TV and a Nintendo Wii.Brandi Jo Silkwood, 30, resigned from the Industrial Engineering Department June 28 after receiving a letter stating the university’s intended to terminate her, OSU spokeswoman Carrie Husley-Greene said.Silkwood is accused of using her purchase card to buy a 47-inch TV. When an OSU police officer questioned her about the TV June 15, she said she bought the TV at a professor’s request but it was still at Walmart waiting for pickup, an arrest warrant affidavit reads.The professor told police he didn’t ask Silkwood to buy a TV.The card’s purchase log shows a TV bought with the card was returned to the store later that day. The affidavit doesn’t state the price of the TV.According to a Walmart transaction record and video surveillance, another TV was purchased with the same card about 40 minutes later, the affidavit states. That TV cost $598. She later told police she accidentally used her OSU card and that she wrote a $1,044.30 check to reimburse the university. She told police she wrote the check to cover the cost of the TV, a Nintendo Wii, several video games and other accessories, according to the affidavit.The check was returned with a notice the account had been closed, the affidavit states. Another check Silkwood wrote for $538.72 to repay other personal purchases also was returned.Police seized a Nintendo Wii, a TV, TV wall mount, stereo and accessories from Silkwood’s home July 13.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Husband Indicted on Charges related to wife's embezzlement of New Mexico school funds

The widower of ex-Jemez Mountain School District business manager Kathy Borrego will follow his wife’s footsteps into state District Court to face felony charges related to Borrego’s tenure with the District.The indictment (see sidebar) handed down July 21 by the Rio Arriba County grand jury accuses Jerry Archuleta, 49. of Abiquiú, of failing to pay a total of $5,448 in taxes between 2005 and 2008, and of knowingly making or receiving a $28,675.56 payment Oct. 25, 2007, from public funds for services not rendered. The date and amount of the latter payment correspond with a District check Borrego admitted to fraudulently writing Archuleta in her February 2010 plea agreement.“At the time Defendant (Borrego) knew that Archuleta had not provided any services to or on behalf of the Jemez Mountain School District,” Borrego’s plea agreement reads. “Defendant further knew that Archuleta was not entitled to these monies.”Borrego herself pleaded guilty Feb. 16, 2010, to 11 felony charges stemming from reports she embezzled money from the District. She committed suicide May 8, 2010, two days before she was to be sentenced in state District Court in Santa Fe on those charges.Documents released by the District Attorney’s Office since then indicate Borrego stole just over $3.6 million.Archuleta is scheduled to appear Aug. 12, 2010, in front of Judge Sheri Raphaelson in state District Court in Tierra Amarilla.He is also named as a defendant in an ongoing civil lawsuit filed in January 2010 by the District and the state Public Schools Insurance Authority to recover the embezzled funds.Archuleta and his lawyer in the civil suit did not return calls for comment.More Checks from District and bank records raise further questions about Archuleta’s potential involvement in his wife’s embezzlement.District bank records show 13 checks worth $39,506 were made out to Archuleta between August 2000 and December 2001. Those checks are in addition to the 2007 check, worth $28,675, Borrego admitted in her plea agreement to writing Archuleta.Two pairs of the earlier checks made out to Archuleta appear to follow a pattern similar to one Borrego used in her embezzlement in which multiple District checks with the same date and the exact same dollar amount were deposited into personal bank accounts. Two checks with Archuleta's signature, both dated Oct. 24, 2001, for $3,543.72 a piece, and two others, both dated Dec. 11, 2001, for $9,600 each were deposited into an account at Del Norte Credit Union owned by Archuleta and Borego.Superintendent Manuel Medrano said the District does not keep invoices or other documentation beyond the seven years required in statute. That means determining the reasons behind the earlier Archuleta checks may never be clear.Pancho Guardiola, who was superintendent at the time, said he recalled the District hiring Archuleta to do some electrical work, but he couldn’t recall the exact dates of the work. Guardiola estimated the District might have paid about $10,000 for the job.“I know living out there a distance from the city it was hard to get electricians to come out,” Guardiola Board member Mark Valdez said he also recalled the District paying Archuleta for electrical work, possibly around the same time the $39,000 in checks showed up. But Valdez also doubted Archuleta did $39,000 worth of work.I just know that at the time we weren’t happy with the work that was done,” Valdez said. “It seemed like it was a pretty quick job and that was it.”All but two of the 13 Archuleta checks from the early 2000s bear one of two account numbers that correspond with account numbers on the backs of hundreds of checks Borrego admitted to depositing into joint accounts as part of her embezzlement.Those two accounts, both at Del Norte Credit Union, were owned by Archuleta and Borrego, according to bank records.A spreadsheet compiled by the District Attorney’s Office and the state Taxation and Revenue Department shows six figures of “additional income” in the couple’s bank accounts every year between 2005 and 2008, ranging from $355,000 in 2005 to over $800,000 in 2008.For example, Borrego and Archuleta made a combined $123,549 from their jobs in 2008 — $66,142 for Borrego and $57,407 for Archuleta, according to the spreadsheet. Investigators pinned an extra $862,212 that year in “additional income” on Borrego’s embezzlement, for a total taxable income of $911,684.District Attorney Angela Pacheco would not comment on the charges Archuleta is facing or the additional District checks to him from 2000 and 2001. She did confirm the statute of limitations, at the most six years for second-degree felonies, would prohibit criminal prosecution of any potential crimes committed in 2000 or 2001.Antonio Corrales, chief of staff for State Auditor Hector Balderas, said his office has not reviewed the couple’s personal bank records but said he doubted anyone could take in that much extra money without drawing attention from the community.“I believe they definitely did know,” Corrales said. “The thing I’m curious about is how did the banks react to this. In communities like this, the people all know one another. Was that something that was ever brought up?”

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Son of accused church embezzler in Morristown, Tennessee charged with money laundering

A Morristown man was charged with laundering more than $450,000 after surrendering to police today, two months after his mother was charged with embezzling roughly $1.5 million from the Baptist church where she worked as a financial secretary, authorities said.Michael Dean Whitt, 42, allegedly was involved in several financial transactions and received multiple deposits to his bank account between July 2007 and April 30, 2010, that totaled $450,299.17, according to the Morristown Police Department.Whitt's mother, Barbara Whitt, who worked at First Baptist Church of Morristown for 47 years, was arrested May 10 for what authorities said could be one of the largest thefts in Hamblen County's history.She allegedly wrote herself nearly 1,650 checks made out to cash - totaling about $1.5 million - since at least January 2008, police said.The 68-year-old widow was previously released on $175,000 bond and was due to face a grand jury hearing on two felony charges - theft of more than $60,000 and criminal simulation - July 2. Prosecutors in the case could not immediately be reached for comment today.Barbara Whitt also faces a civil suit filed by the 2,500-member church, which has asked a judge to freeze any sale of her property.Morristown police said they have uncovered deposits to Michael Dean Whitt's bank account that allegedly came from the embezzled church funds as well.He was released on $175,000 bond today and has waived his arraignment hearing. A preliminary hearing in his case will be scheduled.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Theft from Arkansas State University brings 41 months Ex-worker must repay $733,008.85

A judge sentenced a former Arkansas State University employee who diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars meant for the school into a personal checking account to 41 months in federal prison Friday.Before she was sentenced, Virginia DeMaine, 57, told U.S. District Judge Brian Miller that she began taking the money to help fund a shopping compulsion triggered by her desire to please people, said ASU interim Provost Glen Jones, who attended the hearing in Little Rock.Miller sentenced DeMaine to 41 months on one count of mail fraud and 41 months on one count of money laundering with both sentences running concurrently beginning Aug. 30. He also ordered DeMaine, who had pleaded guilty to both charges in April, to repay $733,008.85 to the university."She asked to be sentenced to prison so she could be punished for what she had done," her attorney, Bill Bristow, said after the hearing."She expressed great remorse and told the judge that she knew she deserved to be punished." Bristow said he and De-Maine felt Miller served "justice tinged with some mercy" in doling out De-Maine's sentence.DeMaine of Jonesboro faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for mail fraud and 10 years for money laundering. Each count carries a maximum fine of $250,000.Bristow said his client believes she will always punish herself for what she did as the university's Childhood Development Services coordinator.DeMaine was hired as the services coordinator Aug. 1, 1994, and served in that role until her termination July 15, 2009.She diverted amounts ranging from $8,933 to $143,322 each year, according to an Arkansas Legislative Joint Auditing Committee report.Bristow said his client will pay the university a percentage of her income "for the rest of her life." Jones and ASU System interim President Robert Potts said they were pleased with the sentence and that the judge ordered DeMaine to repay the money."We feel that sends a strong signal to those who might be tempted to embezzle state funds, or any funds, that that will not be tolerated in the state of Arkansas," Potts said.Childhood Development Services is a national credentialing program for students to receive certification in early-childhood professions.DeMaine took payments intended for ASU Childhood Development Services and deposited them into an account she created at Regions Bank in Jonesboro under the name "Virginia DeMaine-Childhood Services." Jane Duke, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, said earlier this year that DeMaine would mark out "Arkansas State University" on payments and leave "Childhood Services" in order to divert the money into her own account.ASU officials were alerted to a problem June 23, 2009, when someone from Beebe Public Schools contacted ASU about a duplicate payment of $1,225. The school system had requested a refund because no credit for the first payment was recorded, but the check had been processed by Regions Bank.After receiving a copy of the canceled checks, ASU conducted an audit of payments made to Childhood Development Services."During the time period of this fraud, colleges across the state were suffering budget cuts and students were seeing increases in tuition," Duke said in a news release Friday."It is unthinkable that someone charged with the responsibility of promoting education and professional development in our state would divert much-needed funds in this manner."

University of Utah accountant embezzled for 8 years

Jara Jane Wimmer's downfall began in 2001 with a $200 check she wrote to her husband against the account of her new employer, the University of Utah's theater department. By the time the accountant was caught last year, Wimmer had stolen what amounted to a second paycheck for eight years, using the department as a personal ATM and sugar daddy for everything from Mexico vacations to T-shirts to jewelry, according to an internal audit the U. released Wednesday.The audit was completed a year ago, but the U. refused to release it until after Wimmer's sentencing Monday on theft and forgery charges, citing a protection order sought by Wimmer's lawyer. Overruling the U.'s request for serious jail time, 3rd District Judge William Barrett ordered Wimmer, 33, to serve 10 days in jail, perform 200 hours of community service and pay $123,000 in restitution. According to the audit, her thefts total $100,000 more than the restitution order, but that money was excluded from the criminal case because of a statute of limitations on theft.The revelations last year shocked the U.'s theater community, who saw Wimmer as charming, warm and helpful. Yet according to the audit, she had been plundering the department to the tune of $2,300 a month under the leadership of four different chairmen, all the while winning annual promotions and pay raises from a $10-an-hour associate to a $38,750-a-year lead accountant."Jara's name came up as the one everyone trusts and the one that the department can't do without," said theater professor Bob Nelson, who chaired the department from July 2005 until the end of 2008. "I kind of went along with that. I assumed everything she said was true and honest."Wimmer's eight-year tenure as an accountant coincided with the decline in theater arts on campus, described in a review prepared a few months before the embezzlement was uncovered in April 2009.The number of students, credit hours taught, tenure-track faculty and degrees awarded all dropped by a fourth from 2004 to 2008. The department hasn't awarded a graduate degree since 2004, due to the suspension of master's and doctoral programs, and it was running unsustainable deficits, reported the review, prepared by the U. Graduate Council which reviews all university units on seven-year cycles.Although this review was done two years ago, it was made public just recently and the department is now back on a healthy trajectory, according to Raymond Tymas-Jones, dean of the college of fine arts."Great strides have been made that have facilitated a significant turnaround," he said. Careful to not disparage Nelson, Jones said he replaced him as chairman with Gage Williams, a professor of set design whom he characterized as "a godsend.""Under the current chair, the faculty have galvanized and created a sense of energy to address these issues," Tymas-Jones said. Student numbers are up and he expects 26 incoming freshmen to join the actor training program this fall, with about half focusing on musical theater. Policies were put in place to ensure greater oversight on those who handle department funds, he added.Whether Wimmer's misconduct was a cause or a symptom of the department's decline is uncertain, but Nelson contends the theft cost the department 2 1/2 staff positions.When Williams was named chairman in January 2009, his immediate goal was to stanch the department's deficit and that meant exercising more control over finances. The books didn't seem right, so he brought in university auditors to look at Wimmer's use of her recently issued department credit card. They quickly found questionable charges, such as tickets to Cancun, totalling $42,000. She acknowledged in writing that these were fraudulent when auditors and Williams confronted her on April 13, 2009."By the end of that year she had become more aggressive," Williams said. "At that time we didn't know that it had all been stolen. It coincided with university budget cuts. It was a bad time to have someone making it look like we can't manage our ledgers. In reality, we can pay for ourselves."In her "confession," Wimmer claimed that she had only begun embezzling in the fall of 2008 because her husband had lost his job. She said he had no knowledge of the theft and she intended to pay back the money, she claimed."I never meant to hurt the department," she wrote.Further investigation revealed these credit card charges were just the tip of a quarter-million-dollar iceberg with her husband Jason Koerbler's name all over it, literally. Nearly from the beginning of her employment she had been writing him checks, averaging two a month at $700 a pop for a grand total of $113,000.The day after she was caught, Wimmer and Koerbler checked into a West Wendover, Nev., casino hotel where police say they found her with self-inflicted nonlife-threatening injuries and her husband dead. They declined to divulge how he died or how she was injured.Wimmer's lawyer, Tara Isaacson, could not be reached for comment on Thursday.The audit released this week catalogues hundreds of fraudulent credit card charges dating back to 2004, when Wimmer began misusing a professor's card. Most of her illegitimate shopping was done online through Amazon, where she bought such items as a radio-controlled mouse ($16.90), a swimsuit ($104.90), 32 pink purses ($135.70), baseball glove ($189.52) and diamond earrings ($479.99).Wimmer's duties, which included business manager for Salt Lake Shakespeare, the Classical Greek Theatre Festival and Youth Theatre, authorized her to write checks to cover department expenses. Koerbler provided no goods or services to the department, but even if he had, department policy would have barred Wimmer from writing checks to a family member."I'm really embarrassed. I'm not a youngster," said former theater chairman Bob Nelson, who came to the U. from Brigham Young University in 2005 after three years running its theater department. "I'm disappointed in myself that I didn't tear into the books and determine what our sources of income were and what are obligations were."In a letter to the court before Wimmer was sentenced, U. vice president for administrative service Arnold Combe asked the judge to impose a year in jail and to require full restitution."She employed a variety of means to defraud the University, including outright fabrication of order confirmations, delivery notices, and vendor invoices," Combe wrote. "Of all possible penalties, we believe incarceration for an extended period will be most effective in helping deter similar crimes."Barrett, however, opted for a shorter sentence on the rationale that if Wimmer remains employed, she will be better positioned to pay restitution. She now works for a major retailer, although she is barred from handling money.

Former New Milford, Connecticutt church pastor charged with embezzling Danbury car wash investors

A former executive pastor at a New Milford mega-church has been charged with embezzling more than $220,000 from a Danbury car wash owned by the church's pastor and several other investors.Daniel Valentine, 45, of Merryall Road, New Milford, was arraigned in state Superior Court in Danbury on Wednesday for five counts of first-degree larceny and two counts of second-degree larceny.Valentine, who oversaw the construction of Squeaky's Car Wash on Newtown Road and ran the business, allegedly embezzled the money by writing checks to fictitious contractors or builders who had actually done work for the business, endorsed them himself and then deposited the proceeds into his own account, according to Danbury police.Between December 2007 and June 2008, he stole in excess of $221,000, police said. Court documents identified the investors in Squeaky's as church Pastor Frank Santora Jr.; his father, Frank Santora Sr.; Rick DuBois, who is Frank Santora Jr.'s father-in-law; and two men who became silent partners after the car wash began experiencing financial problems, Chris Mullen and Steve Payuk.Frank Santora Jr. couldn't be reached for comment on Wednesday. His secretary at the church said he was out of state.Each of the original investors put up $150,000, while the silent partners each contributed $100,000, according to court documents. Because of construction delays and cost overruns, Santora Jr. contributed an additional $50,000, his father put in another $126,000 and DuBois invested an additional $175,000, police said. Valentine, the "operating manager," made no financial commitment.Early last year, Santora Jr. said the investors became suspicious of the way Valentine was handling the finances, specifically that he had encumbered the car wash in order to obtain a personal loan. As a result, Valentine signed over his share of the business to them.Santora Jr. also told police that after several contractors learned that Valentine was no longer associated with the business, they told the partners that he hadn't yet paid them for some of the work they'd done.That tally came to another $82,000.One of the contractors, Ernie Dachenhausen, of Danbury, admitted that he gave Valentine bills in excess of the actual amount of work performed, police said. Dachenhausen would then kick back the extra funds to Valentine, police said.Valentine was unable to post the $25,000 bond set by the judge on Wednesday, and remains in custody pending another court appearance on Aug. 4.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Virginia priest elevates US conviction in embezzlement case

On grounds of double jeopardy, a retired Filipino priest has appealed his embezzlement case involving over $1 million dollars before the Virginia Supreme Court, after the Court of Appeals upheld his sentence of 18 years in prison for state and federal offenses.Catholic priest Rodney Lee Rodis earlier appealed his conviction of 13 years in prison following state prosecution for embezzling church funds, saying the double jeopardy rule precludes two court hearings for the same violations.Rodis, 54, of Cagayan de Oro City, was sentenced on February 2008 for mail fraud and one count of money laundering to 5 years in federal prison, and was ordered to pay full restitution to the Catholic Diocese of Virginia in the amount of $591,484.08.
In January last year, he was likewise sentenced to 13 more years in prison for 10 counts of embezzlement as a state offense, and was further ordered to pay $432,000 as restitution to his victims.Rodis’ lawyer, John Maus, appealed the second conviction arguing that the Fifth Amendment on double jeopardy prohibits someone from being prosecuted in state courts when he was already prosecuted in a federal court.The appellate court, however, ruled in May this year that the double jeopardy rule refers to the cases themselves, and not to the acts.“Although the federal charges required a showing that Rodis illegally obtained the money, the evidence necessary to prove the federal offenses was different from that required to prove the state offenses. Therefore, the acts involved in embezzling the funds were not the same as the acts of laundering the money and engaging in mail fraud," Court of Appeals Judge Jean Harrison Clements wrote.The court said while the same evidence was used in the two cases, the separate prosecutions did not produce a conviction for the same offenses.Maus has thus appealed the appellate court’s decision before the Supreme Court. During the state trial, Rodis pleaded guilty to stealing donation money to the two churches he previously served, the St. Jude Church in Mineral and the Immaculate Concepcion Church in Bumpass, both in Virginia.
The retired priest reasoned that he used the money to help his family and others in his native Philippines.Court documents showed, however, that the embezzled funds were used by family members in the Philippines to purchase real property, including beach-front property and grave sites.Court records also showed that Rodis likewise has a wife and two children residing in Fredericksburg, Virginia.Rodis was ordained a priest of the Order of St. Camillus in 1986 and came to the Diocese of Richmond in 1991. His first assignment was as parochial vicar at St. Mark parish in Virginia Beach where he served for a year. He was then named chaplain at Mary Immaculate Hospital in Newport News and served there also for a year.
He retired from priestly ministry when an October 2005 stroke had impaired his memory as he claimed.
He left Virginia on June 14, 2006 to return to the Philippines, and later returned to the United States to seek treatment for prostate cancer.He was living in the Fredericksburg area when he was arrested on Jan. 9, 2007 and detained at the Central Virginia Regional Jail in Orange County

Friday, July 16, 2010

Former Mt. San Jacinto College Police Chief Kevin Segawa pleads guilty

Former Mt. San Jacinto College Police Chief Kevin Segawa pleaded guilty Wednesday to eight felonies and two misdemeanors, including bribery, perjury and misappropriation of public funds. In the negotiated plea with the Riverside County district attorney's office, Segawa may be sentenced to up to one year in jail and three years' probation. The goal was to avoid state prison time, John Pozza, Segawa's attorney, said outside court. "He's looking for closure," the Murrieta attorney said. Segawa, 39, of Menifee, was accused of receiving gifts, loans and benefits from Morgan Allen McComas, owner of Pirot's Towing in San Jacinto, who was also charged in the case. Segawa resigned after charges were filed last year. Pirot's received 85 percent of the tow calls from the college, even though several companies were supposed to share the work in what was described as an informal rotation system, according to the district attorney's office. The two misdemeanor charges are related to Segawa not filing complete reports in two arrests. One incident involved the arrest and citation of an undocumented immigrant ice cream vendor who was released to federal immigration authorities. Segawa confiscated the ice cream as evidence of illegal street vending and stored it in his home refrigerator, according to court documents. McComas, 40, of Hemet, is charged with one count of offering a bribe to a public officer and two counts of misappropriation of public funds. He pleaded not guilty. Segawa was hired in 2003 as a police officer at the college, which serves central and southwest Riverside County. He was named chief in July 2005 and placed on leave in July 2009 after authorities began investigating him. "The college does not tolerate personnel who violate the law and we are pleased this matter has been resolved," college spokeswoman Karin Marriott said in a written statement. The college cooperated with the district attorney's office. Riverside County Superior Court Judge Helios J. Hernandez set Segawa's sentencing for Aug. 24. A preliminary hearing for Segawa and McComas had been scheduled today. Because of the developments in the case, McComas' hearing was rescheduled to Aug. 3.

Albuquerque, New Mexico Public Schools Fleet Manager Fired, Faces Charges

The fleet manager of Albuquerque Public Schools was fired this week after a disciplinary committee reached a unanimous decision, a district spokeswoman said.Randy Sanchez, who had worked in APS fleet maintenance since 1998, was charged last week with fraud, embezzlement and receiving stolen property. He was placed on unpaid leave.According to a criminal complaint, Sanchez used APS funds to buy auto parts for personal use, including a turbocharger that he installed in his daughter's truck.Sanchez admitted his actions to police, according to the complaint. He has bonded out of jail and is awaiting indictment in District Court.

Former Edgerton, Wisconsin PTA secretary admits guilt in theft

JANESVILLE -- The former secretary of the Edgerton Elementary School PTA will face a maximum of 10 years in prison when she is sentenced for the embezzlement of more than $11,000 from the organization.Kimberly J. Kienitz, 41, of 301 Randolph St., Edgerton, appeared in Rock County Court on Thursday and pleaded guilty to felony theft. She was ordered released on a signature bond.Kienitz appeared in court wearing a T-shirt and Capri pants. She said she understood the charge and its maximum penalty. She is trying to settle with the PTA on a restitution amount.According to the criminal complaint:The president of the PTA called Edgerton police after receiving calls from a cookie dough vendor the PTA had hired. The vendor told the PTA president the bill for $10,500 in cookie dough had not been paid.The PTA president audited the PTA's finances and found several discrepancies. She called Kienitz, who claimed she stopped payment on the check to the cookie dough company.Blackhawk Community Credit Union, where the PTA has a checking account, told the PTA president no check had ever been issued to the cookie dough company.The PTA president began collecting banking documents from the credit union. She found five checks worth a total of about $6,100 written to Kienitz.Police interviewed Kienitz, who told police her family had been suffering from financial difficulties for several years.Kienitz admitted writing herself checks from the PTA to pay her mortgage, energy bills, food bills and other expenses. She estimated she had taken more than $11,000 from the PTA over two years.Kienitz had been the PTA's treasurer for four years. She presented a monthly treasurer's report to the PTA, but she was the only one to see financial records, the PTA president said after Kienitz's arrest.The PTA used to have a yearly audit done, but Kienitz quietly stopped ordering audits starting in 2007, the PTA president said.Kienitz is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 9.

Former Brookfield, Wisconsin pastor sentenced for theft of church funds

The former pastor of St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Brookfield who was charged this year with the theft of $9,300 in church funds was sentenced Wednesday to 100 days in the county work release jail. Leonard Van Vlaenderen, 51, of Cudahy was convicted by Waukesha County Circuit Judge J. Mac Davis after Van Vlaenderen pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of felony theft.Davis left open the option that Van Vlaenderen could serve his jail term in Milwaukee County, where the priest lives and cares for his elderly mother and aunt.If Milwaukee County authorities agree, Van Vlaenderen could end up serving much or all of his jail term at home on electronic monitoring, officials said.Davis told Van Vlaenderen to report to the Waukesha County work release jail on July 28 unless arrangements are made by then for him to serve his sentence in Milwaukee County.Van Vlaenderen was accused of obtaining repayment from the church for computer equipment that had been purchased in March 2006 and August 2006 with a parishioner's credit card but was returned for refunds, according to a criminal complaint filed in Waukesha County Circuit Court.
Van Vlaenderen used receipts from the purchases to request reimbursement from the church, the complaint says.The parishioner told police she had no idea Van Vlaenderen planned to seek reimbursement.He also was accused of using church funds to purchase a computer in March 2004 that was given to a Chicago resident, the complaint states.Van Vlaenderen has been under scrutiny since his arrest in December 2007 on a misdemeanor charge of possessing cocaine. He was convicted of that charge in 2008 and spent a year on probation.The church began reviewing its finances in December 2007, shortly after the arrest of Van Vlaenderen, who arrived at the church in 2002.An audit that the church conducted showed that the church lost nearly $128,000 over three years in thefts of cash from its weekly collections, and the audit found a correlation between the missing money and the tenure of Van Vlaenderen.Van Vlaenderen, who is on medication for clinical depression, said he was sorry for what he did."I apologize to the court, to my family, my friends, to the parishioners of St. John Vianney, all of God's people of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee for the hurt and disillusionment caused by my . . . clouded wisdom. Words cannot adequately express my remorse. I did wrong," he told Davis.

Former New York CFO Is Spared Jail In $222K Embezzlement Scheme

Sophia M. Canahai, 49, of Lockport, New York, was spared jail time at her sentencing today for embezzling $222,684 from the Cantalician Center for Learning where she had been employed as director of finance. Instead, Canahai was sentenced to five years supervised probation. According to reports, Canahai's father helped make full restitution to the center as required by the court. A 2008 audit revealed the thefts, resulting in an investigation that showed Canahai embezzled from the Center over a period of nearly 17 years, from January 1992 through October 2008. Canahai reportedly spent the stolen money to pay off her home loans and to support her children. At her sentencing hearing, Canahai reportedly expressed remorse. State Supreme Court Justice M. William Boller apparently spared Canahai jail time since full restitution had been made. Canahai plead guilty last April to one count of grand larceny and one count of offering a false instrument for filing.

La Crosse, Wisconsin Church employee accused of embezzlement

A former employee at a North Side church is accused of embezzlement, according to La Crosse police reports.Ann Carson, 47, is accused of taking the funds from North Presbyterian Church, 1327 N. Salem Road, during the past decade by writing checks to herself, then logging them in account ledgers as paid to someone else, reports stated. An audit revealed a number of checks had been altered and cashed for large sums of money, but police did not release an amount.Carson, of Onalaska, was arrested Thursday and is expected to be charged with embezzlement when she appears July 23 in La Crosse County Circuit Court.

Ann Carson was more than a church secretary. To the members of North Presbyterian Church, she was a friend and confidant. They trusted her with their feelings — and their offerings.Over the past decade, Carson pocketed more than $364,000 of their money.For that, she’ll spend the next three years in prison.“Our church loved Ann and felt she loved us in return,” the Rev. Scott Skogen said Friday in La Crosse County Circuit Court. “She embezzled money that could have done so much good.”Carson stole more than $85,000 of donations made in memory of loved ones, the pastor said, as well as money for local and international charities. The theft was discovered after a church member attempted a financial audit in 2009. An external audit showed Carson had been writing checks to herself and falsifying the books.Skogen, who has known Carson for more than 20 years, said it is difficult to request justice for someone who has been a friend.“I knew today, whatever happened, there was going to be no sense of joy for us,” he said after Carson’s sentencing. “I hurt for our church, and I hurt for Ann.”District Attorney Tim Gruenke said Carson was a manipulative person who looked her victims in the eye even as she stole from them and also took $40,000 from a trust for her brother.“That’s a pretty hard heart, to steal from a church and your own family,” Gruenke said.Carson, 47, sobbed as she apologized to a courtroom of her family and church members.“I can only imagine the pain the congregation is feeling,” she said. “And for that, I’m so very sorry.”Her attorney argued her behavior was fueled by a borderline personality disorder and fear of abandonment.“It can’t be that simple,” La Crosse County Circuit Judge Ramona Gonzalez said.Carson showed remorse only at being caught, Gonzalez said, not for a decade of betrayed trust.In 16 years on the bench, only once before had she handed down a prison sentence purely as punishment, Gonzalez said.“The breaking of a trust is something the law has no power to replace,” Gonzalez said. “You have to pay and you don’t have the money. The only thing I can take from you … is your time and your freedom.”Carson’s sentence includes 15 years on extended supervision and requires her to put a quarter of her earnings toward repaying the entire $364,418.12.Carson hugged family members before being taken into custody. The longest embrace came from Skogen.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Long Beach, Mississippi church worker sentenced in theft

A 37-year-old woman with leukemia has been sentenced to one year under house arrest for embezzling nearly $156,000 from First Baptist Church of Long Beach. The Sun Herald reports Judge Lisa Dodson sentenced Michelle Calliham on Monday after she entered a guilty plea. Calliham became the church bookkeeper in the fall of 2006. Long Beach police arrested her on the embezzlement charge on Sept. 15, 2009. Assistant District Attorney Matthew Burrell said Calliham admitted spending the money on medical treatment and to support her family.But if the case had gone to trial, Burrell said prosecutors were prepared to present evidence showing Calliham also spent her ill-gotten gains on entertainment including vacations to Louisiana and Florida.

A grand jury has indicted a former daycare director at a Lexington, Kentucky church on eight theft counts.

A grand jury has indicted a former daycare director at a Lexington church on eight theft counts.WKYT-TV reported 39-year-old Marcie King of Lexington is accused of taking more than $115,000 while working for Southern Hills United Methodist Church between 2006 and 2009.Police said the stolen money was used for weight loss programs, vacations and other personal spending.The station was unable to contact King and reported she was free on bond after turning herself in.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

FAMU officials accused of embezzling

Two Florida A&M officials have been indicted by the federal government for conspiring to embezzle Housing and Urban Development Department money. U.S. Attorney Pamela Marsh said Wednesday that Eugene Telfair and Robert Nixon were indicted on charges of conspiracy, theft from an organization receiving federal funds, and embezzlement. Telfair, president of the FAMU Federal Credit Union, and Nixon, the director of FAMU's Institute on Urban Policy and Commerce, allegedly conspired to steal about $134,250 between 2005 and 2008. The indictment said Telfair and Nixon wrote one another checks and created fraudulent personal services contracts. Telfair is also alleged to have created false tax documents.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Embattled Skiatook, Oklahoma School Board President Kenneth Cooper resigned from the board Friday, saying he hopes his move can help the community heal.

Embattled Skiatook School Board President Kenneth Cooper resigned from the board Friday, saying he hopes his move can help the community heal.The seven-year veteran of the board resigned in a letter to Skiatook School Board Vice President Tim Allen. Cooper stepped down three days after receiving a Tulsa County grand jury notice seeking to remove him from office.A hearing on that matter had been scheduled for Thursday."May my resignation help begin the healing process for our community," Cooper wrote. "My prayer is for our community to move forward, learn from what has happened to our school and as citizens to better serve our children."Unsealed Tuesday were two indictments against former Skiatook Superintendent Gary Johnson alleging embezzlement and bribery of a public official.The indictments came four months after a state audit indicated the school district paid Oklahoma City middleman Rick Enos -- through his companies E&E Sales and Austin Security -- $570,000 more than it would have paid for custodial supplies and security equipment had it bought them directly.Grand jurors also stated in a report they had "no confidence" in interim Superintendent Steve Williams.Jurors said Williams didn't appear to understand the duties of his job or have adequate knowledge of the district's finances. The grand jury accusation against Cooper alleged he was guilty of official misconduct from July 1, 2005, through June 30, 2008. While reviewing invoices from E&E Sales Inc./Austin Security Co., he failed to request proper supporting documents, per his duty, records show.
"As a result of his habitual neglect of duty, and/or willful mal-administration," Cooper allowed payments to be made to the company exceeding open market prices by $238,000, as evidenced by the state audit report, the accusation claims.Cooper answered questions in a prepared statement faxed to the newspaper by his friend, attorney Kevin Jordan. "I was as shocked as anyone when this slowly unfolded over a year ago," Cooper wrote. "We had independent auditors in place and were following all of the procedures provided us by the OSSBA (Oklahoma State School Board Association). Despite that, the system failed. We have been devastated and angered as a community and a board by this, and we want our money back." Cooper wrote that although he was proud of his service, "I want to be an agent of reconciliation and unity in the Skiatook community, and as there are no charges against myself or any other board members, I do not see the need to go through any additional delays or costs." Johnson, 55, has requested a preliminary hearing on his felony counts. Court documents filed Thursday by defense attorney Rob Nigh state that Johnson "specifically reserves his rights to challenge the indictment on its face for procedural irregularities in the grand jury process." With grand jury indictments, a defendant is not guaranteed a preliminary hearing, which is when a judge determines whether probable cause exists for a defendant to face trial, said Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris. However, prosecutors or the defense attorney can request a hearing. The bribery charge alleges that Johnson received money as superintendent with the intent to give preferential treatment to Enos' companies. He allegedly did so by directing the school board to approve all recommended payments as charged by E&E Sales Inc. for custodial supplies and security equipment at prices greatly in excess of open market prices, documents show. The embezzlement charge claims Johnson, in an effort to benefit himself, caused documents to be falsified $25,000 above open market prices to support the charging invoices of Enos and his companies, records indicate. Both alleged crimes took place in 2008, documents claim.In a response to an independent audit conducted for Skiatook schools, Johnson said he had "known Enos and done business with E&E Sales dating back to when I was a principal some 20 years ago," the audit states.Nigh has said Johnson will enter not guilty pleas at his arraignment scheduled Wednesday.

House foreclosure at stake in Connecticutt nursery school embezzlement case

A nursery school that is suing a former bookkeeper accused of embezzling more than $150,000 will be allowed to initiate a foreclosure on the woman's house if it wins the lawsuit, according to the school's attorney. Superior Court Judge Terence Zemetis has granted a prejudgment remedy of $250,000 in a lawsuit brought by the Guilford Nursery School against Joan Kathryn Ames, requiring Ames to set aside $250,000 in assets.A writ of attachment orders Ames to put up her Whitethorn Drive home to satisfy the prejudgment remedy."It has the practical effect of preserving whatever her equity is in the house for us," he said. Ames, who was the school's bookkeeper for about 30 years but no longer works there, was charged with firstdegree larceny in September. She has not yet entered a plea and is due back in court Monday.Initial police investigations alleged that Ames, formerly known as Joan Ames Berkowitz, embezzled $50,000. But further audits accuse her of embezzling at least $150,000 in five years.Licari said last week he is still receiving bank records related to the case and that the law may permit the Guilford Nursery School to be reimbursed three times the amount embezzled. That's why Licari initially asked the court to require Ames to secure $450,000 in assets.However, after discussions between Licari and New Haven lawyer William F. Dow III, who represents Ames in her civil and criminal cases, "the court entered a prejudgment remedy pursuant to an agreement between the parties for $250,000," Licari said.The decrease in the request of the prejudgment remedy amount "has no direct bearing upon ultimate value of our case or with the confidence we have in our client," Licari said. "The judge didn't order that. It's not a function of any analysis by the court as to ultimate value of claim."Ames' house appears to be worth more than $250,000, Licari added, but the court has also granted a motion for Ames to disclose other assets.Dow and Ames could not be reached for comment.The Police Department began an investigation into Ames' bookkeeping in fall 2009, after receiving a complaint from the nonprofit North Guilford Nursery School. As bookkeeper, Ames made all deposits and handled accounts payable, and court documents state she issued checks to herself using school accounts for money she was not owed and tried to conceal the withdrawals.

Charter School Operators in California Appear in Court on Embezzlement Case

The operators of a charter campus in the San Fernando Valley made their first court appearance today on charges of embezzling more than $200,000 in school funds.Yevgeny "Eugene" Selivanov, 38, and his wife, Tatyana Berkovich, 32, who run Ivy Academia charter school, are accused of taking the money between 2004 and 2009.They are charged with five felony counts of misappropriation of public funds, embezzlement by a public or private officer and filing a false tax return, along with a misdemeanor count of failing to file a statement of their economic interests for 2008, according to the criminal complaint.Selivanov is additionally charged with six counts of misappropriation of public funds, embezzlement by a public or private officer, money laundering and filing a false tax return, while Berkovich is also charged with a misdemeanor count of conflict of interest.If convicted as charged, Selivanov faces a possible maximum prison term of 14 years and two months, while his wife faces up to nine years behind bars, according to the District Attorney's Office.
The Tarzana couple started the school in 2004. Ivy Academia has four campuses, in Woodland Hills, West Hills, Winnetka and Chatsworth, and bills itself on its website as "one of the highest performing charter schools in California."The couple also own a private "for public" preschool, Academy Just for Kids, which shares a campus with the charter school, according to the District Attorney's Office.The complaint against them alleges that a school district auditor "identified several areas which appeared to involve commingling of public with private funds and failure to accurately report financial transactions in the school's accounting records."Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Hilleri G. Merritt ruled that the two will be allowed to remain free on their own recognizance on the condition that they make arrangements to be booked by June 18. They are scheduled to be arraigned July 19 at the downtown Los Angeles courthouse.The judge also ordered the couple not to use any Ivy Academia charter school or support funds or credit cards for personal use, including groceries, restaurant meals, gifts and clothing, and not to open any new bank accounts, credit cards or credit lines on behalf of the school."We expect that they will be fully exonerated in this matter and be able to continue to serve the students," defense attorney Janet I. Levine said outside court.In a statement released after the couple were charged Thursday, Levine said they are "educators and innovators, and are confident that any fair and complete review of the facts will show they acted honorably, ethically and legally in administering Ivy."In a letter sent to Ivy Academia parents, the school noted that the charges "will in no way interrupt Ivy's day-to-day operations" and that Selivanov and Berkovich will "continue to work at the school."The Los Angeles Unified School District's Office of the Inspector General began an audit of Ivy Academia charter school in June 2006 as one of several charter schools to be audited.The case was referred to the district's Office of Investigations in August 2006, then to the District Attorney's Public Integrity Division in May 2008. The state Franchise Tax Board also investigated the case. Charter schools are operated with public funds.

School Board Member-Elect from West Virginia Charged With Embezzlement

A man recently elected as a Brooke County school board member is accused of embezzling more than $10,000 in cash and goods from his workplace. Benwood police said Joseph Adams Jr. is charged with one count of embezzlement and four counts of obtaining money, goods, or property through false pretenses.
Investigators said the crimes happened while Adams was working for REM West Virginia Inc., a company that serves people with special needs. Police said another employee notified them of the alleged crimes on June 28 after a bank alerted REM.
"The company wasn't aware of it. They were notified by WesBanco Bank, who notified them that they saw some activity that looked suspicious -- checks that were wrote out to REM and they were to be deposited into a personal account, which is not allowed to happen to begin with," said Benwood police Capt. Dave McLaughlin.
Bank officials became suspicious after Adams cashed business checks into his personal account. Officers said he cashed about $3,600 in two checks and embezzled around $7,350 in supplies.
"We found a little over $7,000 of materials and supplies that he had ordered from a company and the materials were delivered directly into the defendant's home," McLaughlin said. He said police have not found the office supplies.
Police said Adams turned himself in on Thursday at his attorney's recommendation, but since he has legal representation police could not question him.
Adams is a Brooke High School graduate and was elected in May to represent the Weirton magisterial district of the school system.
After he was elected in May, Adams told NEWS9, "We should look at each person and make them more accountable for their actions."
Voters across the community have mixed feelings on whether or not he should hold his position on the board.
"I don't believe that he needs to be taken off the school board for any reason until he's proven one way guilty or innocent at all," said Dan Diserio a resident of Wellsburg.
"How about a thing called justice. Wait, it's a school board. How about something for children to look at a grown-up and say 'they're worth emulating,' " said Ginny Elman of Wellsburg.
Brooke County Schools Superintendent Dr. Kathy Kidder said she learned about the charges in the news and contacted the executive director of the West Virginia School Board Association and the school system's attorney for information on if Adams can hold office pending the criminal charges.
Kidder also said she believes that Adams meant what he said to NEWS9 after the election.
"I believe Joe still feels that way. I had him as a student when he was at Brooke High School, and I believe that he was speaking the truth," she said.
She also said she will not shy away from the situation.
"I think it's vital that school board members are held accountable for their actions and that they serve as a role model for our students," she said.  But, Kidder said Adams is innocent until proven guilty and he is scheduled be sworn in as a school board member Tuesday at 6 p.m., when the board holds its reorganization meeting. "He has two options: To be sworn in and carry out his duties or, if he would choose, to resign," Kidder said. Kidder said board members and school officials can decide to remove Adams from his position on the school board, but that would require a petition filed through court.McLaughlin said the position to serve on the school board is a "high honor" and said that Adams' case is "disturbing." "When you're taking care of our children of our area and then charge him with an offense like this -- taking company money from REM, which their job is to take care of the handicapped of our community -- that makes it disturbing," he said. And Ginny Elman agrees. "No matter how much or how little you have, help somebody in need and if somebody has anything wrong with them you have to respect them. Who's he going to steal from next? I don't know babies, nuns?" said Elman.NEWS9 attempted to reach Adams at his home, but he had not returned calls as of 5 p.m. Friday. If convicted, Adams faces one to 10 years in prison for each count that he's facing.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Connect Rome, Georgia church suspects embezzlement

Pastor Josh Roberts of Connect Rome City Church told Rome police that a former employee allegedly took thousands of dollars of the church’s money and put it into his own account, reports stated. According to a Rome Police Department report:
The church discovered between $20,000 and $30,000 was taken in a five-and-a-half month period after the employee opened a separate nonprofit account and began putting church funds into that account. Roberts told police church leaders learned the employee, who has yet to be charged, also tried to claim that an older laptop was damaged during a church trip and was looking for insurance to pay for it. Rome police officer Michelle Sims said Wednesday the investigation is ongoing.

Frankfort, Kentucky woman pleads not guilty to embezzling $40,000 from day care center

A Frankfort woman pleaded not guilty Wednesday to embezzling $40,000 from a non-profit child care organization in Lexington for which she worked.Mary Tincher, 39, is charged with felony theft by deception of an amount more than $10,000. Tincher is accused of electronically transferring funds to her private bank account from Child Development Centers of the Bluegrass over seven months. Child Development Centers, 465 Springhill Drive, provides speech, occupational and physical therapy to children with disabilities. The organization also runs a day care program for children with and without special needs.Tincher was hired as a financial employee in August. She declined comment after Wednesday's arraignment.Tincher is scheduled to return to Fayette District Court on July 22 for a preliminary hearing. She was released from the Fayette County jail after posting 10 percent of a $5,000 bond.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Minneapolis man pleads guilty to school embezzlement

An ex-Minneapolis charter school director who formerly lived in Shakopee pleaded guilty Wednesday to embezzling more than $1 million from the American Indian school, according to the Associated Press. Joel Pourier, whose half-million dollar Shakopee home was foreclosed on and sold last year, pleaded guilty to eight felony counts of theft by swindle.
Pourier was accused of writing fraudulent checks and transferring money to bank accounts he controlled. According to the criminal complaint, he spent money from Oh Day Aki/Heart of the Earth school on houses, cars and at strip clubs, while students went without textbooks, supplies and field trips. The
school's charter was eventually revoked.
Pourier, 39, apparently made up his educational credentials and had falsely claimed he was independently wealthy and a member of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.
Pourier and his wife Christine used to rent out a home she owned in Prior Lake. The tenant there in 2008 was told to move out. The property is still listed under Christine's name.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Former Virginia day-care employee indicted on embezzlement charges

A former employee of a Fluvanna County day-care center has been arrested after being indicted on 19 counts of embezzlement and two counts of money laundering, according to a Virginia State Police spokeswoman.  Tracy Lin Shifflett was charged after a joint investigation by the Fluvanna Sheriff's Office and the state police into the finances of ABC Preschool in Palmyra, spokeswoman Corinne Geller said. Shifflett was arrested Tuesday, Geller said.
According to court documents, officials found receipts for nonbusiness expenses, including porch screening and cigarettes.
In 2007 and 2008, the business averaged cash receipts of about $3,700 each month, according to an affidavit requesting a search warrant.
In 2007, the business deposited an average of $968, and for 2008 the figure was $1,336, according to the affidavit.
Court documents reveal that police are also investigating whether there is any connection between Shifflett and financial problems at Wesley Community Child Care Center in Charlottesville, which closed this year as it was facing a tax lien.
"In a similar but separate case involving Tracy Lin Shifflett and ABC Preschool of Palmyra, Virginia, sizable cash deposits were made into her University of Virginia Community Credit Unit and BB&T bank accounts, likely from ABC Preschool funds," state police special agent accountant William W. Talbert wrote in an affidavit asking for permission to search Shifflett's bank records.
Geller said the investigation into the Wesley problems is still open and that the two investigations are being conducted independently.
At Wesley, police found nearly 40 unauthorized ATM withdrawals and business deposits that came up short when compared with receipts.
Police have been examining bank records for months in the case. Shifflett was the director of each preschool when the financial problems occurred, according to affidavits.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Virginia Church treasurer charged with embezzlement

The former treasurer of Bradley Street Baptist Church in Bristol, Va., was charged last month with embezzlement, accused of writing checks to himself worth $14,000 from the church’s bank account.

Randall C. Sargent Jr., 53, of Droke Lane in Blountville, Tenn., was charged with four counts of embezzlement, an unclassified felony akin to grand larceny.
Bristol Virginia Police Sgt. Steve Crawford said Sargent was the unpaid treasurer of the church for more than a decade. The current charges date to April 2008, according to court records, though Crawford said additional charges are pending, some for thefts dating back five years. Police are still waiting for subpoenaed credit card and banking records from Bank of America and Crawford estimated the final total could be as much as $30,000.
Sargent did not return a message left at his home Friday.
In March, a member of the church’s board of directors went to police after noticing some irregularities in the banking records. Sargent was the authorized signer on the church’s checking account and exclusively responsible for counting the money and paying the bills.
In April 2008, according to criminal complaints, Sargent issued himself a $3,000 check from the church’s bank account and cashed it at Carter Bank & Trust in Bristol, Va. Then in September 2008, Sargent wrote check number 5384 for $3,500, issued to cash, and cashed it at Blue Ridge Bank & Trust in Bristol, Va., according to the complaints.
In March 2010, Sargent wrote check number 5631 for $6,000, made out to himself and cashed at Carter Bank & Trust in Bristol, Va., court records stated. The next month, he wrote check number 5638 for $1,500, issued to himself and again cashed at Carter Bank & Trust.
Crawford said the leadership of the church is currently unclear. The board of directors disbanded and the pastor resigned, in part over the embezzlement investigation. No one returned a series of messages left on the church’s machine over several weeks.
Crawford called it a mid-sized congregation, though he was not sure exactly how big. The church’s funding comes exclusively from its congregation’s tithes and offerings.
At the time of his arrest, Sargent was an accountant with Charles Bridwell CPA and Associates in Gate City, Va. The company did not return a Friday call seeking comment.
There is no set sentencing parameters for unclassified felonies.
Sargent was released from the Bristol Virginia Jail on a $3,500 secured bond and is scheduled to appear in General District Court at 9 a.m. July 22.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Woman accused of embezzling from Okeene, Oklahoma church

Blaine County prosecutors have accused a former church treasurer of taking more than $176,000 from an Okeene church.Forty-eight-year-old Okeene resident Christine Mae Lorenz has been charged with two counts of embezzlement by employee. Lorenz posted a $2,000 cash bond and faces an Aug. 13 court appearance.
Authorities allege Lorenz took $127,748 between Feb. 1, 2005, and May 19, 2009, from one of the First Baptist Church of Okeene accounts, and $48,895 from another account during roughly the same period.
Lorenz's attorney, listed in court records as Matthew R. Oppel, wasn't immediately available for comment Wednesday

Woman Accused of Embezzling $186,000 from North Carolina Church

An employee at a Thomasville church is accused of embezzling $186,000. Kathy Koonts Sechriest, born on Christmas Day in 1956, is charged with embezzling money from Zion United Church of Christ in Thomasville. Sechreist worked as a secretary at the church and lives nearby with her husband.
Sechriest turned herself in to detectives on Wednesday. She faces charges of embezzlement of greater than $100,000, a felony. Arrest warrants show Sechriest is believed to have embezzled the money over the past five years.
No one answered at Sechriest's house when FOX8 went to ask for her side of the story, and many friends said they didn't know she had been arrested. Family members who did not want to speak on camera told FOX8 that they were the last to know that she was arrested.
Some church members who did not want to be identified said they questioned why Sechriest worked late at night at the church and why she suddenly had extensive landscaping in her yard. The pastor at Zion United Church of Christ did not return calls for comment.
Sechriest was released on $100,000 bond, which records show she paid in cash. The judge also ordered Sechriest not to harass, assault or threaten any members of the church. Her court date is set for July 21.