Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Church treasurer charged with theft in Georgia

A Georgia woman is under arrest after allegedly stealing more than $93,000 from a Southern Baptist church where she worked.

Gwendolyn Hawthorne, 61, of Marietta, Ga., was arrested Sept. 18 on a warrant alleging that she took $93,744.25 from Crown of Life Community Baptist Church in Powder Springs in Cobb County north of Atlanta. A listing in the Southern Baptist Convention find-a-church database says the congregation was founded in 1994 and has 95 members.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, an arrest warrant accused Hawthorne of using her position as chief financial officer to conceal theft from church leaders by falsifying monthly budget reports. She is accused of making 937 fraudulent transactions between March 2007 and February of this year that went undetected until March 17.

She allegedly used the church’s bank card for personal bills, dining at restaurants, shopping and ATM withdrawals including more than $20,000 at various casinos.

Hawthorne was held at the Cobb County Jail on $110,220 bond.

According to Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, church fraud globally is a big business. While most Christians do not steal from their church, the company says, those who do often find easy pickings.

Weeds in the Garden, a certified public accounting and business advisory firm specializing in churches and ministries, conducted surveys finding that only 40 percent of churches had any kind of mechanism for reporting fraud, half lacked a formal information technology security plan and only 25 percent engaged in any form of paycheck verification

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