Embezzler charged with stealing from church

| May 14, 2010

An Ogletown woman convicted of embezzling from a bank three years ago was arrested again this month for taking money from a Greenville church where she was employed, police said.

Shannon G. Tuso, 39, of the 100 block of Brewster Drive in the Sycamore Gardens development, was charged May 3 by New Castle County police with one count of theft under $1,500 for obtaining money by fraudulent means — a misdemeanor.

Until March 11, Tuso was an administrative associate at Christ Church Christiana Hundred in Greenville.

According to court records, Tuso — in her responsibility of handling the church's payroll — gave herself a $1,000 raise in her monthly salary in December, which she was not authorized to do.

Tuso was hired at Christ Church on May 5, 2008, about a year after she was convicted in federal court of embezzling $135,000 from Bank of America. She was to work in the management of resources and handle payables and payroll.

Tuso left the church Feb. 16 on medical leave and planned to return in early March, but she never did, Christ Church Rector Ruth Lawson Kirk said.

Tuso was terminated March 11 after the allegations of misappropriation came to light.

On March 17, Tuso was charged with violating her probation on the embezzlement conviction because she lied to her probation officer about handling money on the job, according to court records. She appeared in federal court April 21 to answer to that charge, which was filed less than a month before her three years of supervised release expired.

According to court records, Tuso admitted to "intentionally deceiving the officer by stating on several occasions that she did not have access to funds at her former employer, Christ Church, when in fact, she did."

U.S. District Court Judge Gregory M. Sleet sentenced Tuso to two months in prison May 5, to commence on June 14 when her daughter finishes school, and one year of supervised release.

At her April 25, 2007, sentencing in U.S. District Court on the felony embezzlement charge, Tuso, who worked in Bank of America's payroll department, said she stole $135,000 to save the lives of her ex-husband and 5-year-old daughter, who were being hounded by a New Jersey drug dealer over a $25,000 debt her ex-husband had incurred.

Tuso told Sleet at that time that she knew what she was doing was wrong, but did it to protect her child.

The judge sentenced her to six hours in prison and three years of supervised release. She was also ordered to return $80,719 to the Bank of America.

Kirk, of Christ Church, said she had no knowledge of Tuso's felony arrest and had done no background check before hiring her two years ago.

Kirk, who became rector in 2007, has been in the ministry for 21 years and said this is the first time there had been a need for a criminal investigation of a member of her church's staff.

"Now I know that I have to do a state criminal background check and a federal one as well," Kirk said, referring to the need to balance greater vigilance with the church's mission of mercy and justice.

"Sometimes that means that we're wounded by events," she said. "One of my jobs is to rebuild the trust and integrity."

Kirk informed the congregation about the allegations in a May 10 letter and said the church will make changes in its accounting practices, as recommended by an auditor.

Kirk also told congregants that the church is "keenly aware of our responsibility for your gifts and contributions … and remains fully committed to the careful management of the resources you entrust to us."

The Episcopal parish traces its founding to the du Pont family and remains near the family's original 1803 home and graveyard. Church membership was 1,980 in 2005, with a $1.5 million operating budget, making it the largest in the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware.



Tags: , , ,

Category: Church Security