Mount Pleasant Church Employee charged with taking money from church

| September 25, 2009

MOUNT PLEASANT — The former associate director of Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Learning Center has been charged with embezzling about $100,000 from the church preschool over a two-year period.

Elizabeth Meares, 43, of Mount Pleasant is accused of using the school’s checkbook and credit cards to siphon funds for her personal use, police said. She surrendered to police Thursday and faces one count of breach of trust.

The Rev. Gary Bullard, senior pastor at the Hibben Street church, said Meares was asked to resign her position in June after the theft was discovered. She and her family since have made "a significant amount of restitution" and she remains a valuable member of the church congregation, he said.

"Our hearts break for them and for the community, but they are doing everything they can to make this right," said Bullard, who spoke on Meares’ behalf at her bail hearing. "This is a dear, dear person to our church family. She and her family continue to worship with us, which we consider a special gift."

Meares worked for about two years at the Learning Center, which serves about 200 children between the ages of 3 months and 5 years old. Her position put her in control of the center’s checkbook and credit card, according to a police report.

When the theft first was discovered, church officials worked privately with Meares and her family to address the issue, Bullard said. The church governing board finally came to the conclusion that the matter needed to be turned over to the authorities, he said. A police report was filed last week, and a church official provided investigators with copies of numerous checks and credit card statements, police said.

Bullard said Meares had "some personal issues in her life." He declined to elaborate but offered that she has had "significant therapeutic support" since the theft was discovered.

"We are about grace and forgiveness," he said. "Our commitment is to stand with (Meares and her family) and support them through this difficult time."

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Category: Church Security

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