Friday, August 19, 2011

Woman repays First United Methodist Church $44,000, charges dropped


After she repaid the money, charges were dropped Thursday against a woman accused of embezzling from a Battle Creek church.

Kathleen Vanorsdol, 36, of Kalamazoo and her attorney Jeffrey Getting presented a certified check for $44,000 to Calhoun County prosecutors and church officials in Calhoun County Circuit Court just before Vanorsdol could have been sentenced after earlier entering a plea.

Vanorsdol would have faced up to 10 years in prison but as part of a plea agreement, the charge was dropped in exchange for restitution.

Battle Creek police and the church alleged she stole at least $47,737 between Sept. 1 2009 and April 1, 2011, when an audit revealed the theft. But assistant prosecutor Sarah Lincoln said officials could only corroborate $44,000.

Several members of the congregation and Pastor Billie Dalton attended the hearing and accepted the check.

Lincoln said while repayment was positive and fulfilled the agreement, the theft by the former financial manager "has significantly hurt this congregation" by shaking their trust in other people.

Circuit Judge Allen Garbrecht told her, "what you have done is stolen the money and without this agreement you would be sentenced. What you did impacted other people and it was a pretty low blow to steal from these people. I hope you will learn."

Vanorsdol told the judge, "I am truly sorry for betraying the trust of the people of First United Methodist Church."

But Garbrecht said she should say it directly to the people in the audience.

Vanorsdol turned and said, "I am very sorry for what I did. I am working to get better. It will never happen again."

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