Ex-church worker given probation in theft

| October 6, 2009

EBENSBURG — The former secretary of Westmont Baptist Church was placed on probation for five years Monday in county court on her guilty pleas to stealing church funds and immediately paid in full the nearly $120,000 she owed.

Prosecutors said that the restitution owed by Marsha J. Wiesenbaugh included $112,161 to the church and $7,819 to Church Mutual Insurance Co.

The stolen funds included money given by members for church missions as well as the quarters given by children to the church, said Bruce Graham, the head trustee.

Wiesenbaugh, 42, of the 100 block of Old Delta Lane, Upper Yoder Township, expressed remorse for her actions.

“I broke everyone’s trust and everyone’s heart. I’m very, very sorry. I do not take this lightly,” Wiesenbaugh said.

In imposing the sentence, Judge Gerard Long said that the defendant is a first-time offender.

He said that she committed the theft “in a small church where everyone trusts everyone. I don’t think there was any investigation made yearly or monthly on the finances.”

The judge ordered her to pay $2,400 in fines in addition to the restitution. If she follows all the conditions of her probation and gets into no further trouble with the law, he said he would consider terminating the probation after two years.

Defense Attorney Robert Davis Gleason said Wiesenbaugh was receiving both mental-health and spiritual counseling. The judge ordered her to continue the counseling, with reports to be submitted to him every six months on how she is doing.

Graham told the church that documenting the thefts had not been an easy task.

Reconstructing the financial records which had been “maliciously destroyed” by the former secretary took nearly 2,000 hours of work, Graham said.

Some of the bills the former secretary failed to pay included vehicle insurance that lapsed when several church women used the church van to go on a retreat out of state as well as worker’s compensation that lapsed, Graham said.

Her actions, he said, left “everyone’s faith and trust shattered.”

Charlotte Illig, a charter member of Westmont Baptist, said that the church is “a small one of 30 families. Hearts were crushed when they learned of your deception.”

However, Illig – who said her own reputation could have been affected because she signed checks and other financial records submitted by Wiesenbaugh – told the ex-secretary, “you have been forgiven. … I pray that one day you will realize you are responsible for your own actions. I love you.”

The church is located at 115 Jeffrey Drive in Lower Yoder Township.

Gleason said afterward that the defendant was able to pay the restitution in full with the help of family members.

She had pleaded guilty in August to forgery, tampering with records, theft by unlawful taking and theft by failure to make required disposition of funds.





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Category: Church Security

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