Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Canton, Michigan: Church bookkeeper faces embezzlement charge

A former bookkeeper who handled the payroll for a Canton church has been charged amid accusations
she embezzled more than $25,000 by paying herself inflated wages during a four-year period ending last
Dec. 31.
But a defense attorney strongly denied the criminal allegations against 63-year-old Michalene Peters of
Canton, saying the former Resurrection Parish employee made an ongoing payroll mistake but
repaid $25,022 after an audit by the Archdiocese of Detroit uncovered financial discrepancies earlier
this year.“This is a good woman,” Farmington Hills attorney aymond Cassar said. “Everybody loves her. She's a good lady.”Peters waived her preliminary hearing Friday in 35th District Court, sending the case to Wayne County Circuit Court. Peters, released on a personal bond during her Oct. 12 arraignment, has maintained her innocence, but she could face penalties ranging up to 15 years in prison if she is convicted.
Canton Police Detective Jeremy Quinn said Peters voluntarily turned herself in to face one count of embezzling $20,000 to $50,000 as an agent or trustee of the church and one count of embezzling
$1,000 to $20,000 from a nonprofit or charitable organization.Quinn said the charges arose from allegations
Quinn gave herself unauthorized hourly wage increases between Jan. 1, 2007, and Dec. 31, 2010,
while she worked as a church bookkeeper.“She denies any type of defrauding,” he said.
Cassar described Peters as a beloved church employee who was asked to retire July 30, ending
what Cassar called an unblemished work record during the 24 years she worked alongside the Rev.
Richard Perfetto before he retired last summer.“I believe this is simply a payroll mistake,” Cassar
said. “It's not like she took money out of the church collection or the pastor's pants pockets. It was
literally a payroll mistake, and she acknowledged it. I'm very surprised that the Archdiocese (of Detroit)
has decided to still go ahead with prosecution.“The money has been repaid,” Cassar said, “and I
am going to do anything in my power to help her.”The Rev. Kenneth Chase confronted the issue last
weekend during an address to the parish, which has grown to 650 families on Warren between Beck and
Ridge since its inception in 1990.Chase told parishioners he needed to share “sad and serious” news with them.“Early in 2010, we discovered what appeared to be some financial discrepancies in the processing of
the parish payroll by our then-bookkeeper,” he said.Chase said the Archdiocese of Detroit was asked to
perform a “limited scope audit” that revealed what he called “questionable transactions and unauthorized activity.” He said those findings were turned over to authorities who conducted their own investigation.
“It is a serious matter when parish funds are unaccounted for, regardless of whether the amount
involved is small or significant,” Chase told parishioners. “Until this matter is resolved in the
courts, the parish staff and I are not able to discuss it or provide you with any additional details beyond
what I'm telling you now.”

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