Former church treasurer Mary Lou Earl will face five counts of embezzlement, after an audit discovered $78,372 missing from the accounts of East Gilead Missionary Church over five years.
Earl, 57, formerly of Little Rose Lake, Ovid Township, was found in Muncie, Indiana, and returned to Branch County to face the four five-year felony charges. The fifth charge is a 10-year felony because the church is a non-profit organization. Bond was set at $100,000.
Earl had volunteered as the treasurer of the church at the corner of Southern and Block roads beginning in 2009, according to the court records. She was terminated Dec 13, 2013, after an audit raised questions about checks she had written from church accounts.
Branch County Sheriff's Office (BCSO) Det./Sgt. Dan Nichols began an investigation. He said when she was confronted, Earl admitted writing the checks for personal needs, as well as to “help other people.” None of the checks had been approved by the church officials.
The audit showed questionable checks were written by Earl each year in amounts that started with $5,183 in 2009 and ranged between $14,972 and $19, 804 each year until her services were terminated five years later.
Branch County District Court Judge Brent Weigle scheduled a probable cause and preliminary examination within the next 21 days. St Claire Shores attorney Jeffrey Maynard will represent Earl.