A Pennsylvania church was hoping for "greater punishment" for a former treasurer who for 10 years had been issuing falsified checks and stealing up to $400,000 over time.
Melanie Lee Kummerer, the 56 year old former treasurer of Calvary Lutheran Church in Reading, Pennsylvania pleaded guilty to one count of theft by unlawful taking nad three counts of forgery.
According to the Christian Post, Kummerer was able to steal roughly $400,000 from the church throughout her 10-year tenure as its administrative staff. On June 7, she pleaded guilty before Berks County Judge Patrick T. Barrett, who ordered her to pay restitution. However, the Pennsylvania church's pastor Rev. Lauren Wolfe Blatt told the Reading Eagle that she was unsure if the former treasurer would be able to repay the stolen money.
"Overall our congregation is really grieving. They wanted to see a greater punishment for such a large crime," Rev. Blatt said.
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Reports of Financial Crime at the Pennsylvania Church Date Back to 2019
According to the Berks County District Attorney's Office, a representative of Calvary Lutheran Church first reported a financial crime on July 24, 2019. The investigation revealed that Kummerer was appointed to the position of Central Treasurer at the Pennsylvania church in January 2009. She served in the position until her resignation on February 25, 2019.
Throughout her 10-year tenure as Central Treasurer, Kummerer managed and stored the Pennsylvania church's financial records inside her home. She also forged more than 200 checks.
In August 2018, Calvary Lutheran Church got a new senior pastor, Rev. Drew Neidig. Church leadership then raised concerns over their finances. Rev. Neidig then asked Kummerer to provide a balance sheet and income statement following his first financial meeting in October 2018. However, Kummerer failed to present the documents in the following two financial meetings. The police were then contacted and a forensic audit found that the former treasurer forged more than 200 checks since 2009 amounting to about $391,444.03.
Church Leader Lamented the 10-Year Prison Sentence, Hoping for 'Greater Punishment' for Former Treasurer
Rev. Neidig lamented that while she was stealing from the Pennsylvania church, it had actually been struggling to pay its bills. Her theft placed the church "in a very tough financial position," the Reverend said, adding that they were often behind in paying the bills because they lacked the funds to pay.
"One of things that the church and other nonprofits do is assume that everyone is trustworthy and therefore they don't have good financial controls in place and that certainly was the case here," Rev. Neidig explained, "because we assumed people were trustworthy, and we didn't have proper checks and balances."
Rev. Neidig said that the loss of almost $400,000 had a "tremendous impact" on the church, Patheos reported. Now, Rev. Blatt said that the money the former treasurer stole from the Pennsylvania Church was "peoples' hard-earned contributions," which makes the 10-year prison sentence "harder to swallow." She lamented that they will not be able to gain back the $400,000 Kummerer stole from the church.
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