70-year-old church secretary accused of stealing $40G

| November 20, 2009

WINDBER — The former treasurer of SS. Peter & Paul Orthodox Church on Hoffman Farm Road near Windber has been charged with stealing more than $40,000 in church funds through her nearly five years of employment there.

Leah M. Wonyetye, 70, of Dunlo faces four counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds, two counts of theft by deception and four counts of receiving stolen property.

Eight of the charges are felonies.

“It is a lot of money,” said Richland Township police Detective Thomas Keirn. “Sadly, this is not that uncommon with churches and civic organizations. You need to make sure you have checks and balances.”

Leaders became suspicious earlier this year after learning the church was behind several months on some bills, Keirn said.

After identifying some shortfalls connected to Wonyetye’s reports, church leaders contacted police.

Richland investigators brought in an outside auditor to go over the records back to 2006, when Wonyetye took over as treasurer.

The audit detailed a history of missing deposits and double paychecks totaling $40,104.39.

Confronted with the auditor’s report, Wonyetye admitted to the thefts, court papers said.

She remains free on her own recognizance, with a preliminary hearing scheduled for Jan. 12.

“She is not a young woman,” Keirn said. “We did not incarcerate her, but she is going to have to figure out how she’s going to come up with this money. There is a chunk there.”

Churches, social clubs and other organizations should have multiple sets of eyes on all financial business, Keirn advised, and two employees should count and check deposits.

 

http://www.tribune-democrat.com/local/local_story_322230620.html?keyword=topstory

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Category: Church Security

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