Last month, a Wisconsin woman who former worked at a Lutheran Church in Oak Creek was charged with embezzling almost $100,000 in her employment there. The woman had reportedly worked at the church in a variety of capacities over a four-year period of time, including as an administrative assistant and acting director through March of this year. In this capacity, she was given access to a debt card and bank account privileges for financial management of the church.
The woman reportedly resigned in March after the pastor inquired about her use of church accounts to pay for concert tickets. By the end of the month she had resigned from her position. Among the types of theft with which she was accused were: theft of payments for childcare fees; withdrawing funds from automatic teller machines and spending them on personal expenses; as well as inflated gas and grocery expenses. In total, authorities accuse the woman of embezzling $95,778.21, obviously a lot of money.
Earlier this month, the woman pleaded not guilty to the embezzlement charges. Sources say she was due back in court this week, but didn’t mention whether a trial date has been set. A guilty plea in such a case, it is important to understand, is not necessarily a denial of all criminal liability. In the criminal process, a defendant is presented with the charges against him or her in first appearances and may plead guilty or not guilty. In any case, of course, pleading guilty should not be done haphazardly, but with solid legal guidance to ensure the defendant has the opportunity to consider the charges, negotiate with prosecutors about resolving the case, and to weigh the risks and benefits of going to trial.
There are a variety of reasons why a defendant might choose to plead not guilty, both in general and particularly in embezzlement cases. We’ll continue looking at this topic in our next post.
Oak Creek Patch, “Oak Creek Woman Accused of Embezzling Almost $100,000 from Grace Church,” Scott Anderson, Sep. 15, 2016.
Fox 6 Now, “Accused of stealing from church: Oak Creek woman pleads not guilty to felony charge,” Oct. 13, 2016.