Former Holy Cross Church employee faces theft charge

| February 20, 2010

SOUTH BEND — A former employee of Holy Cross Church is accused of stealing more than $1,100 from the parish, and is facing a felony theft charge from the St. Joseph County prosecutor's office.

Pamela McAlister was director of the church's after-school program, and allegedly deposited several checks meant for the parish into her personal account, according to charging documents.

Church officials were alerted to the issue late last year when a school parent noticed a check she had written to Holy Cross Church for $50 was signed by McAlister.

She noticed McAlister had crossed out "Holy Cross Church" and written "Pam McAlister" on the check, charging documents showed.

A South Bend police detective probed the case further and found similar instances, involving varying amounts of money.

When confronted by the parish's pastor, the Rev. Michael Mathews, McAlister told him that she sold Tupperware and mistakenly thought the checks from the parents were meant for her personally, according to charging documents.

McAlister resigned amid the allegations.

In her letter of resignation, she said she had discovered three other cases where she had mistakenly deposited money meant for the parish into her personal account, totaling $628.

She included the money with the resignation letter, according to documents.

Detectives found other cases where parents said they gave McAlister cash or checks, and the church had no record of receiving it.

In one case, a parent wrote a check for $423 that McAlister never gave to the parish, charging documents showed.

An internal audit covering a three-month period found, in total, $1,152 collected by McAlister was never received by the parish, according to the documents.

A warrant for McAlister's arrest was issued Friday, according to the prosecutor's office. She faces one count of theft, a class D felony.

Linda Jones, the Holy Cross Church and School business manager, said she did not initially notice the financial discrepancies.

"It was an honesty thing," she said. "You trust somebody."

Jones said McAlister held the after-school director position for at least four years.

The parish, located at 920 Wilber St., does not know how much money was taken beyond the recent three-month audit, Jones said.

The after-school program serves about 20 to 30 children per day, Jones said, and costs $7 per child, per day.

A phone message left at Holy Cross Church Friday evening was not returned.

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Category: Church Security

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