Friday, May 27, 2011

Ex-church treasurer pleads guilty to embezzling in Michigan

From the Herald Palladium:

The former treasurer of a church pleaded guilty Wednesday to embezzling money “hundreds” of times over nine years.

Jon Ruppel admitted in court that he took the money from St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in St. Joseph from 2002 through early 2011, although he was unable to give an exact amount.
Prosecutors alleged that the 46-year-old Ruppel used his position overseeing church finances to steal about $262,000 from St. Peter’s, 623 Church St.
Ruppel appeared in Berrien County Trial Court for a conference with his lawyer, Andrew Burch, and pleaded guilty to a charge of embezzlement of $50,000 to $100,000. He was to have faced a preliminary hearing today.
Ruppel is free on bond pending sentencing on June 20. Conviction on the charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
Under terms of a plea agreement, a more serious charge of embezzlement over $100,000 is to be dismissed, said Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer Smith.
The agreement also requires Ruppel to pay $70,000 to the church before he is sentenced and further restitution as the court may order, Smith said.
Before accepting the guilty plea, Judge Gary Bruce questioned Ruppel about how he embezzled money.
Ruppel, of St. Joseph, told the court that he kept money for himself that was to have been deposited in church accounts, including collection plate offerings. He said he also withdrew money from church accounts.
Ruppel was charged in March after church officials contacted St. Joseph police, who investigated.
The police investigation showed that Ruppel withdrew $50,000 from a church gift fund as a check in 2009 and $55,000 in another check from the same fund in 2010.
At the time of Ruppel’s arrest, Smith said the church board began investigating after an administrative secretary noticed that the gift fund was nearly depleted.
After the secretary prepared paperwork for the board, church officials went to St. Joseph police, Smith said.

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