Kershaw woman accused of church theft

| April 8, 2010

LANCASTER — A Lancaster County woman faces nearly 50 fraud charges after authorities say she stole almost $140,000 from a Kershaw church.

Brenda Marie Coates, 47, of Kershaw was charged with 46 counts of forgery after her previous employer noticed discrepancies in an account she worked on, according to a Lancaster County Sheriff's Office report.

Coates is accused of forging checks to herself that were meant for First Baptist Church in Kershaw since late 2007. The total amount stolen is $137,297.12.

Some of that money was donated for missions or other church activities, the report stated.

Coates worked for an accounting firm that handled the church's finances, according to the report. She told police it was her job to print checks and do payroll.

Authorities suspect Coates intercepted contributions to the church and wrote checks to herself without permission. She told deputies during an interview that she altered the books so the missing money wouldn't be discovered, the report stated. Coates also told deputies she used the stolen money to pay bills.

The accounting firm first noticed the errors when a newsletter from the Southern Baptist Convention listed the amounts given to various mission groups that varied from the contributions given.

Coates was arrested last week and charged with forgery in connection with checks written between October 2007 and March. She is no longer employed with the accounting firm.

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Category: Church Security