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Church worker stole over $500,000 for years, until temporary replacement noted, feds say

Over the span of at least 13 years, a business executive stole an estimated $573,836 from an Indiana Catholic church and its affiliated school, according to federal authorities.

She was only caught when, while on leave from work in November 2021, a temporary replacement “noticed suspicious transfers from the parish’s gambling account to an outside bank account,” according to a Feb. 13 press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. United States for the Southern District of Indiana. The discovery prompted an investigation.

Now Marie Carson, 72, has been sentenced to two years in federal prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud, records show. She was also ordered to pay the church $573,836.59 in restitution.

The defense attorney representing Carson did not immediately respond to a request for comment from McClatchy News on Feb. 14.

Authorities said that while Carson was employed by the Indianapolis parish, she was tasked with processing checks and conducting the church’s financial transactions. She was solely responsible for parish finances.

At least 124 times between August 2008 and May 2021, he transferred money from the church and school to his personal accounts, according to court documents.

“In an additional effort to be successful, Carson kept each transaction amount to no more than a few thousand dollars and made false entries into the database used by The Church and School to track parishioner payments in order to hide the fraudulent transfers of funds to her,” prosecutors said.

Authorities said they found evidence that he stole about $573,836 from the parish since 2008, but “the actual monetary loss is likely much higher, as Carson admitted to church officials that he began this program in 2004.”

She used a “significant amount” of the stolen funds to gamble with her husband and take annual month-long vacations to Florida, according to the release.

“For more than thirteen years, this defendant has abused her position of trust to embezzle money from parishioners destined for a church and a school,” US Attorney Zachary A. Myers said in the statement. “Her greed and desire for lavish vacations outweighed her interest in following the dictates of our penal laws and the teachings of her church, ‘Thou shalt not steal.'”

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