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The Growing Risk of Embezzlement

Why churches are more at risk than ever.

At first glance, the two churches don't have much in common.

One, a large congregation, has enjoyed a front-row seat to history, serving for more than 150 years in the country's epicenter of power, Washington, D.C. The other, a smaller congregation just 80 minutes northwest of the nation's capital, has been serving its Virginia town of less than 2,000 people since the early 1970s.

Big differences, right? Unfortunately, that changed in late December.

That's when the former finance director of the Washington, D.C., church was arrested and charged with stealing more than $500,000 from that congregation during a six-year span. Less than a week later, the former bookkeeper of the Virginia church was arrested for allegedly stealing about $300,000 from it over five years.

Both suspects used the money for big-ticket purchases—real estate, cars, jewelry, and furniture—according ...

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Matthew Branaugh is editor of content and business development for Church Law & Tax at Christianity Today. He earned his juris doctor (JD) with honors from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

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  • March 1, 2013

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