Friday, September 6, 2013

Former Lutheran Synod employee pleads guilty in embezzlement scheme in Minnesota

A former employee pled guilty Thursday to
embezzling more than $300,000 from the Minneapolis Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America over a 1--year period.

In exchange for the guilty plea two similar charges against 51-year-old Raenay Hendrickson will be dismissed when she is sentenced November 4. She is expected to receive a 17-month prison term and be forced to pay restitution.

All sides agree that Hendrickson's embezzling scheme goes back to at least 2002, and that she took nearly $318,000 from the synod between that time and the day she was fired on July 15, 2012.

"I am pleading to the five counts because I am guilty," Hendrickson told Hennepin County District Court Judge William Howard Thursday morning.

Hendrickson said she began working for the synod office in June 1996 and eventually was doing the jobs of executive assistant to the bishop, synod administrator and bookkeeper, which gave her full access to the church's checking account.

"I took extra paychecks, paid medical bills for my family, my daughter's expenses," she testified Thursday. "I was thinking at some point I would be paying it back but I knew it was wrong and I had no approval to do that."

Under questioning from Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Ben Schweigert, Hendrickson admitted that she falsified synod records in order to cover up her thefts.

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