A 72-year-old Indiana woman has been sentenced to two years in federal prison after transferring nearly $574,000 from a Catholic Church and its associated school to her personal accounts for gambling and vacations.
The Department of Justice announced that Marie Carson, of Indianapolis, pleaded guilty to wire fraud after 13 years of handling money as a business manager for the parish. FOX 59 Indianapolis identified the parish as Saint Matthew Catholic Church and School.
Carson was the sole staff member responsible for processing checks received from parishioners and conducting financial transactions on behalf of the church and school for over a decade, court documents said. From 2008 to 2021, she illegally transferred at least $573,836.59.
The DOJ said the actual monetary loss is likely to be much higher as Carson admitted to church officials she began her scheme in 2004.
She was exposed in November 2021 when Carson was on leave from her position, and her temporary replacement noticed suspicious transfers from the parish’s gaming account to an external bank account, according to the DOJ.
Further investigation into the transactions led to the discovery of over $289,000 moved into multiple accounts, including a phantom account in the church’s name.
Carson was reportedly able to maintain the scheme for so long because she was making false entries into a database used by the parish to track payments.
The DOJ said Carson and her husband used a “significant amount of money” for casino gambling and an annual, month-long vacation to Florida.
“For more than thirteen years, this defendant abused her position of trust to embezzle money from parishioners intended for a church and school,” said Zachary A. Myers, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana. “Her greed and desire for lavish vacations outweighed her interest in following the dictates of our criminal laws and the teachings of her church, ?thou shalt not steal.?”
Myers added that her sentence sends a “clear message” to those who are considering stealing, defrauding, and embezzlement.
“We will find you, you will be prosecuted, and you will be held accountable,” Myers concluded.
FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge Herbert J. Stapleton said Carson’s scheme was “fueled by pure greed,” and she abused trust to line her own pockets. Stapleton also said that her deception ultimately landed her behind bars despite the potential short-term benefits.
In 2022, St. Matthew Rev. Msgr. William F. Stumpf informed St. parishioners of the theft, FOX 59 reported. His letter said in part:
“Upon discovery of the theft, we enacted new internal accounting controls to provide assurance that all funds are safeguarded. We carry Fidelity insurance to cover fraud and theft losses, and we have received payment to cover the documented loss. It is with deep sadness to report that these serious events have occurred.”
In addition to her sentence, Carson will be on probation for two years following her prison release. She must also pay the amount she was convicted of stealing in restitution.