Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Embezzlement: Zero Tolerance
Embezzler's extended sentence puts churches on notice.
Federal
State:

U.S. v. Reasor, 541 F.3d 366 (5th Cir. 2009)

Background. A woman (the "defendant") was employed as a church's office manager from 1993 until 2000. During that period, she misused church funds for her personal gain, using checks from the church's general fund account and the pastor's discretionary account on which she was a signatory. The defendant forged signatures and falsified endorsements on checks. She also made out checks to herself, and various individuals and entities, which she cashed. Many of the checks were cashed at a supermarket next door to the church. The defendant also misused the church's funds and the pastor's name in other ways for her financial benefit. Her activities enabled her to misappropriate $450,000 of church funds.

The defendant's misconduct was eventually discovered, and she was charged with several crimes. She pled guilty to 28 counts of forgery; three counts of mail fraud; one count of bank fraud; and one count of making a false statement on a credit application. She received a sentence of 15 years, which included an upward adjustment (pursuant to federal sentencing guidelines) for misrepresenting that she was acting on behalf of her church.

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Posted: November 2, 2009
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