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Woman Charged With Embezzling $1 Million From NY Archdiocese

BY DAVID GIBSON                                                                                               ©2012 Religion News Service
 
A 67-year-old woman with a criminal record for theft has been charged with siphoning $1 million in donations while working in a finance office of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, church officials announced January 30.
 
The archdiocese said it did not conduct a criminal background check when the employee, Anita Collins, was hired in 2003. Collins' complex scheme drained money from an education fund at the same time the church was closing Catholic schools.
 
Church and law enforcement officials said that over seven years Collins sent fake invoices to the archdiocese, then issued some 450 checks to accounts she controlled, all in amounts just under the $2,500 threshold that would have required a supervisor's approval.
 
Most of the money was apparently siphoned from the accounts payable system in the archdiocesan Department of Education Finance Office, according to a statement from archdiocesan spokesman Joseph Zwilling.
 
Most of the money Collins allegedly embezzled was spent on mortgage payments and on "a lifestyle that was not extravagant but was far beyond her lawful means," Adam Kaufmann, the chief of investigations for the Manhattan District Attorney, told The New York Times.
 
Outside auditors implementing enhanced financial safeguards in late 2011 initially found $350,000 in missing funds, Zwilling said. After law enforcement officials were called in, the full extent of the theft was uncovered. Collins was confronted with the evidence and was fired on December 6, 2011. "Sadly, there will always be individuals who seek to exploit and circumvent whatever system is established, but we will remain vigilant in our oversight," Zwilling said.




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