Penn woman accused of stealing $28,000 from Hempfield church

| April 27, 2010

A Penn Township woman was arraigned yesterday on charges that she cracked a safe at the Hempfield church where she served as choir director and stole more than $28,800.

Gloria M. Christofano, 42, of 5010 Hawkview Lane, was arraigned yesterday before District Judge Mark Mansour on charges of theft by unlawful taking and receiving stolen property in connection with the thefts at St. Paul's Parish in Carbon between July and November 2009.

County Detective Will Brown said in an affidavit of probable cause that church officials approached District Attorney John Peck in November because they were concerned about money missing from the locked safe.

Although Christofano is accused of taking $28,800, an audit indicated the church lost about $65,000 during 2009, according to the affidavit. Christofano, who is employed by the Upper St. Clair School District as a middle school music teacher, was released from the choir position after she became a suspect.

When Brown and Detective Frank Gallilei initially questioned Christofano on Dec. 2 about money missing from church collections, she denied involvement, according to the affidavit.

"I then informed Ms. Christofano that we had a video that displayed her removing funds from the church. Ms. Christofano then informed Detective Frank Gallilei and I that she wanted to see the video," Brown wrote in the affidavit.

Brown said Christofano then viewed the video that showed her entering the office where the safe is located. Detectives said she then admitted taking funds two months earlier to assist a relative who had filed for personal bankruptcy.

She claimed to detectives that she had returned the stolen checks to the vault "and retained $1,000 in cash," according to the affidavit.

Christofano denied knowing the safe's combination. Asked how she entered the safe, Christofano told police "she tweaked the combination lock and turned the handle of the safe until the safe opened."

On the evening of the interview police recovered white church security bags from Christofano's garage containing about $5,000 in church offerings from collections Nov. 22 and 29, according to the affidavit.

On Dec. 10, church officials reported that they received a check from Christofano for $4,000 to cover "restitution."

In February, after detectives informed Christofano that an audit determined church losses were $65,000, Brown received a mailed note from Christofano that she would repay the entire amount of funds the church has lost "although she was not involved in the theft of the entire amount," Brown wrote.

Upper St. Clair School officials did not return telephone calls seeking comment yesterday.

Christofano's preliminary hearing is scheduled Friday before Mansour.

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Category: Church Security

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