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Bought a shovel so I could bury Mom

“You used the church credit card for personal expenses?” “Yeah – I needed to buy a shovel so I could bury my mother in the yard…” The Case Maria Lutz was the church treasurer for ten years, and also took care of the bookkeeping. She had church credit cards, too. One day the church received…
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October 4, 2019 0

The ‘Do-Everything’ Financial Person

A Lutheran church in Nebraska was thrilled to have an accountant volunteer to be the church financial secretary and keep their books. Two years – and $109,000 later – they realized that this might not have been a good idea. The Case Michael Pommer, 45, of Wakefield, Nebraska, was arrested on October 22, 2018, facing…
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October 2, 2019 0

Hey, Mr. Postman…

Ever wonder what’s in someone else’s mailbox? The Case If you mail a check to the church, it really ought to get there. The Post Office did their job, but trailing the postal carrier were allegedly four individuals with masks and sacks over their shoulders. OK, that may be embellishing things a bit. But what…
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September 20, 2019 0

Another Reason Vacations Are Important

The Case: You have an extremely dedicated employee, who never takes a vacation. It’s time to kick them out the door – at least for a couple of weeks. According to the indictment, the office manager embezzled over $200,000 over six years: she was the bookkeeper for the church, and falsified records to cover her…
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September 19, 2019 0

Overpaying Taxes for Fun and Profit

The Case: Your paycheck stub shows that some of your money went to the IRS. Normally, one wants to keep that number low, but some folks deliberately overpay. This fellow appears to have overpaid his taxes by well over two million dollars… just for starters. Charles Sebesta, 54, was the chairman of the board for…
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September 19, 2019 0

A debit card for the treasurer?

The Case: A church debit card is supposed to be used only for church business? The First Christian Church of Garden Grove is likely to stress this with future treasurers. The church treasurer was hired in 1978, and had a church debit card. Apparently she thought it was OK to use it for personal expenses…
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September 19, 2019 0

Cash storage 101

The Case   He was a frequent visitor at the church. He was homeless, but often came for free food. One Sunday evening he came to worship. He stayed after the service. Hiding, until everyone was gone.   After everyone left, he helped himself to the food in the kitchen. He also helped himself to…
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May 23, 2019 0

What could possibly go wrong?

The Case In 2003, he was bankrupt, had $150 in the bank, $50 in his pocket, and $98,000 in debts. That same year, the church hired him at $125 a month to be their bookkeeper. They gave him unrestricted access to the books – the right thing to do for a bookkeeper. But they also…
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May 14, 2019 0

AND a church fire…

The Case Southern Baptist churches are independent – the association is one of shared beliefs rather than shared accountants and auditors. That means that the churches run the gamut from well-run to, shall we say, “informal.” This church appears to have been on the “informal” side. And one day they had a fire which destroyed…
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May 1, 2019 0

Embezzlement, or Error?

The Case: With a confession and a signed promissory note,  it is likely that this was a case of embezzlement, but we’ll never really know. The suspect died before providing police with documents he said showed that the problem was a bookkeeping error. The church filed a fraud report with police claiming that the suspect,…
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April 11, 2019 0

One set of eyes

The Case It was a Greek Orthodox church of about 250 members – but it could have been your church. They hired one of their members as a secretary/bookkeeper to keep things straight. Her job was to run the office, of course, and this included opening the mail, taking care of folks who came in…
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March 18, 2019 0

Transparency leads to more giving

This is an interesting video. Rather than making this too mercenary, I think we need to be good stewards of what we are given, and that good stewards are entrusted with more.


March 16, 2019 0

Short Version

It CAN happen at your church. ALL embezzlers were trusted: that’s how they got the money. Even Christ had one bad ‘un in his twelve. You really do need an audit of your financial procedures. No slam: allchurches do. We are LOTS cheaper than a CPA audit ($299 – $699, with scholarships for the tiniest churches, vs $3k-10K+). You will…
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March 12, 2019 0

Why we want separation of duties

  The Case   He was the business administrator for the church for 17 years. He was an active member, respected by all, and led contemporary worship services. He was also an embezzler.   He was in charge of all of the church finances, including setting up the outside audits. One year he hired a…
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March 9, 2019 0

We have this rich uncle…

The Case   Start with two administrators of a private catholic school. Add a gambling addiction. What could possibly go wrong?   The two Sisters were principal and vice-principal of a catholic school. They were responsible for taking in checks and depositing them at the bank. Some checks made it there, and some made it…
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March 8, 2019 0

Why the pastor gets the statement first

The Case The church secretary was trusted – too much. She took care of the bills and the paperwork, and all was well. At least that’s what they thought. One day, the postman arrived while the secretary was out. Normally, the postman gave the mail to the secretary. But the pastor happened to be in…
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March 8, 2019 0

Smith residence… oh, yeah, and MegaCorp Janitorial…

The Case Bob was a church administrator, and it was his job to keep the church running smoothly. He hired the the cleaning crew, paid the utilities, and made sure they had paper towels in the restrooms.  He also paid himself. You see, Bob wasn’t just the one who paid the bills – he was…
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March 7, 2019 0

Credit card misuse

The Case The 23-year-old church staffer was issued a church credit card. It was supposed to be used for church expenses, but maybe she wasn’t told. Over a nearly two year period, she used the card made about 1,400 unauthorized purchases. The total came to about $50,000. All of these were for personal use, and…
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March 6, 2019 0

Wait – WHAT was her name?

  The Case   Professor Smith taught accounting, and had a promising student in her fraud-prevention class. He was working on an extracurricular project for his church. They were trying to find out how much they had lost to an embezzling secretary.   The secretary was in serious financial trouble when she was hired. But…
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March 1, 2019 0

Conference Behavior 101

When the church sends you off to a conference, they expect you to go, learn something, and come back. They do NOT expect you to take the other woman with you and miss the conference.   The Case   The nondenominational campus group was off to an out-of-state retreat during Spring Break. The pastor drove…
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February 27, 2019 0