Man sentenced in church embezzlement

| October 9, 2011

GREENVILLE, Tenn. (ABP) – A man convicted of conspiring with his mother to steal $1.5 million from a Tennessee Baptist church was sentenced Oct. 4 to just over four years in prison.

Senior U.S. District Judge Leon Jordan sentenced Michael Dean Whitt, 44, to 51 months in federal prison, the maximum allowed by law, for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and money laundering.

Authorities say Whitt conspired with his mother, Barbara Whitt, to embezzle funds from First Baptist Church in Morristown, Tenn., over a period spanning nearly three years. As financial secretary at the church for 46 years, she confessed to writing more than 1,600 checks to herself to draw $1,514,593 from the church’s general checking account.

Whitt was not authorized to sign checks, so she made them out to “Cash” and then had them signed by claiming they were for legitimate expenses. She then typed her name to make them payable to “Cash – Barbara Whitt” and cashed them at a nearby SunTrust bank on her lunch hour.

Responsible for receiving the bank statements and managing the checking account, she held other checks written for legitimate expenses to artificially inflate the balance. The scheme worked until May 2010, when a church audit found $500,000 was missing.

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Category: Church Security

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