Woman ordered to pay $179,670 for embezzling from church

| October 2, 2010

A judge has ordered a former church bookkeeper to pay $179,670 in restitution and write an apology to members of a Colorado Springs congregation after she pleaded guilty to stealing church funds.

Fourth Judicial District Judge Deborah Grohs sentenced Jennifer Lynne Butts on Sept. 22 after she had pleaded guilty to felony theft for taking money from the Calvary United Methodist Church.

Grohs ordered Butts, 53, to serve 90 days of home detention plus 6 years probation and to perform 200 hours of community service. She also was ordered not to work as a bookkeeper or any job that involved financial management.

Butts’ lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday. Some of the restitution has been paid. Court records showed a balance of $131,116 due on the day Butts was sentenced. That figure also included court costs.

According to court records, the case came to light in November when a pastor called police to the church at 4210 Austin Bluffs Parkway to report that an ex-employee had admitted to stealing $13,000.

Church officials had discovered the money was missing as the result of an audit. They told police that Butts had submitted a letter Nov. 25 admitting to the theft. In the letter, she stated that she used the money to pay medical bills for her daughter, who had suffered a skiing accident in Summit County in January 2009.

“I have no excuse but to say I was desperate. We were overwhelmed with lawyer and court bills,” the letter stated. “I kept this all to myself and tried to pay some of it off. I did not tell my husband because I was so ashamed. I really thought that I could get it paid back.”

In March, police said a church auditor presented them with bank records showing fraudulent transactions totaling $106,977 from November 2007 to August 2009. The auditor told police that Butts concealed the theft by showing the money as having been paid for various church expenses.

Pastor David Amrie said church officials were surprised when they learned of the theft.

“We believe that justice has been done,” Amrie said Thursday. “We continue to hold Jennifer in our prayers.”

 

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