A former Fellowship Church Manager was reported to have stolen almost a total of $1.4M over a decade as shown by documents.
The Christian Post reported that Lara Lynn Ford stole from Pastor Ed Young's Texas-based Fellowship Church without being caught for more than ten years. Records from the court and from the April 2019 Grapevine Police Department showed that Ford stole out of a "bad spending habit" and to "help people." When asked as to why she stole the money, she was quoted to reply with "umm, stupid."
"Ford then admitted she didn't have the money in an account, and she would buy things she doesn't need and would help people," Grapevine Police Department Officer T. Karfs said in the 2019 report.
Ford was sentenced to imprisonment for 10 years on April 16 after pleading guilty "to theft of property greater than "$300,000 in value," the Christian Post added.
In addition, Forth Worth Star-Telegram reported that the sentence was actually decreased from a 99-year imprisonment with a $10,000 file after pleading guilty. The 51-year-old Ford intends to apply for shock probation to suspend her prison sentence considering she had no previous felony convictions.
The Star-Telegram pointed out that Ford would only be granted that request by a judge after six months of receiving her sentence and dependent "on her behavior and progress report while in prison." Community supervision would be in place should the request for shock probation be granted.
The Star-Telegram revealed that Ford started stealing from church funds on December 22, 2008 based on Fellowship CFO Dennis Brewer's accounts documented in the search warrant.
Brewer "discovered additions to Ford's monthly housing allowance" in April 2019 that prompted him to confront Ford about it. Ford then confessed that she did increase the housing allowance given her along with taking additional money through auto-draft payments setup to her checking accounts.
It was only then, the Star-Telegram added, that the Fellowship conducted an audit of their bank accounts and discovered that a minimum of $1,068,825.23 have already been received by Ford's checking accounts. Ford's church-issued laptop was then seized by the Grapevine police later that year to see other evidence of her thefts through "transactions, receipts, and other accounts." Ford was able to pay half of the money through insurance based on Tarrant County court records.
The Christian Post added that Ford initially took "$50-$200 each time" and then increased it "when she gained access to the church's bank accounts as part of her job in the finance department." When she was able to send money manually to church employees whenever the direct deposits did not go through, Ford used the same process of "sending herself money." She then made online payments to her account using the laptop of $1,500 to $1,700 weekly or monthly "for seven to eight years."
Ford was able to steal a total of $1,377,144.76 based on further investigations on her, the Christian Post said. Of which, $250,000 was paid by the Hartford Insurance.
The Christian Post revealed that Ford has been suspected of committing fraud as early as 2015 but it was mostly from hearsay. Christy Quick, a former co-employee who was Ford's staff, provided information about the allegations against her to a private investigator, which in turn contacted Officer Karfs.
Quick said she did not personally witness any act of "manipulating accounts and transferring money to" Ford. However, "she heard it via third party" -someone who happens to be "close to Ford" and "who Ford allegedly confessed to."