Stolen church money intended for hungry, homeless
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana – It was an elaborate scheme to steal tens of thousands of dollars, some of which was intended for the hungry and homeless, and hope no one would notice.
"Up among the top liars I've ever met," said fraud victim Paul McFann.
McFann is not mincing words. He is talking about the former secretary and treasurer of his church's council, Jane Loprest, who stole more than $119,000.
"She had endeared herself to many," said McFann. "She's extremely intelligent, extremely personable, very knowledgeable with technology, most importantly, her ability to help others."
McFann, the president of the church council, says Loprest used those traits to gain people's trust and then began raiding church accounts.
"She would cut checks to herself, she would increase her pay - she increased her pay, doubled or tripled her pay," he explained.
"She covered her tracks really well," added U.S. Postal Inspector Laura Carter. "There were never any accounts that the church was overdrawn because of the way she was conducting the scheme."
Postal inspectors used surveillance photos from the bank used by the church to track deposits and withdrawals. They found that Loprest would write checks but never issue them. So, the books might look correct, but she was actually taking the cash for herself.
"There were a number of contributions and causes, people in need, that were never met because the checks were never sent," said McFann.
This is what made the 120 parishioners of this small church so angry.
"Someone was hungry, they didn't get to eat. Someone was homeless didn't get shelter, those are the most disturbing," said McFann.
The church's bank notified officials when they found several discrepancies. When confronted, Loprest confessed.
McFann said, "I really believe it was a chess game, she loved the challenge, how long can I get by with this? What new approaches can I use?"
Postal Inspectors say oversight is key for any organization, whether it's for-profit or non-profit.
"Conduct annual audit with a CPA, volunteers are great, but you need that CPA to give you what's going on with your books," said Carter.
Loprest pleaded guilty and spent one year in jail. She was also ordered to pay more than $100,000 in restitution back to the church.
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