Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Volunteer gets probation for embezzling thousands from Romeoville church

A volunteer treasurer was sentenced Monday to four years probation for embezzling thousands of of dollars from a Romeoville church.
Deborah Suchomel, 52, pleaded guilty to one count of theft in May. On Monday, she brought a check to court for $26,987.26 in restitution to the church - the amount of misappropriated money that could be proven by audits, according to Assistant Will County State's Attorney Chris Messina.

Police previously estimated Suchomel took more than $106,000 while serving as council secretary and preschool bookkeeper for Good Shepherd Lutheran Church between October 2005 and April 2013.

Judge Carla Alessio-Policandriotes also banned Suchomel from any contact with Good Shepherd, assigned her $7,000 bond to be used for court and probation costs, and ordered her to complete 480 hours of community service.

"The defendant must notify any nonprofit group (she approaches for community service) up front that she has been convicted of theft from a nonprofit. I'm not going to set up another victim here," Alessio-Policandriotes said.

"I'm so sorry. I'm just sorry," Suchomel sobbed before she was sentenced.

The Rev. Suzanne Anderson-Hurdle said she and her congregation supported the plea deal so they can move on from "the betrayal" by her one-time close friend.

Suchomel had written checks to herself for cash, and the embezzlement was discovered after the IRS contacted the church about unpaid taxes.

"I was led to believe it was limited to the preschool, but (it turned out to be) all our financial accounts, including some that had been closed for several years," Anderson-Hurdle said.

Anderson-Hurdle, Good Shepherd pastor for 17 years, said dealing with the investigation, financial problems and betrayal has caused her to neglect other areas of her ministry.

"The strain made me pray over taking a leave of ministry. I trust people less. I trust my instincts less. I question what I know about my church, my faith, my God,' Anderson-Hurdle said.

"The outlook our church will survive is not good," she told Alessio-Policandriotes.
 The pastor of a church where a volunteer treasurer stole more than $100,000 is satisfied with the sentence issued Monday.

The Rev. Suzanne Anderson-Hurdle said Good Shepherd Lutheran Church “looks forward to moving on” since Deborah Suchomel was sentenced to four years probation and 480 hours of community service after pleading guilty to theft.
Suchomel also brought a check to court for nearly $27,000 – the final amount agreed upon by her attorney and prosecutors, Anderson-Hurdle said.
“She had already made other payments totaling $56,000 that had been [intermittently] taken and put back, but that did not include any interest or tax penalties,” the pastor said.
Investigators earlier estimated Suchomel, 52, obtained $106,000 between October 2005 and April 2013 while serving as bookkeeper and church council secretary. Suchomel would write checks to herself for cash and the embezzlement wasn’t discovered until last year after the IRS contacted the church about unpaid taxes.
“This was a betrayal against all of us in the church and against me by a close friend,” Anderson-Hurdle said. “I’m very glad we’ll no longer have this taking up so much of the time we should spend on other things.”

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