Woman who embezzled from Frontenac church sentenced to probation

| November 20, 2009

FRONTENAC, Kan. — The former business manager of the Catholic church in Frontenac, who pleaded guilty in connection with the embezzlement of $74,000, was sentenced Wednesday to three years of probation.

Lanora Michelle Driskill Spigarelli, 43, of Frontenac, also was ordered to pay more than $74,000 in restitution to the church where she used to work.

Spigarelli pleaded guilty in July in U.S. District Court in Wichita to one count of mail fraud. As part of her plea, she admitted that she embezzled $74,027 from her employer, Sacred Heart Catholic Church. The crime took place from January 2006 through September 2007, while Spigarelli was working as the church’s business manager.

She placed stolen money in the U.S. mail when she used it to pay her personal bills, authorities said.

Spigarelli faced a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Church officials have said the parish priest at the time, the Rev. Robert McElwee, requested and was granted a leave of absence by the diocese. The Rev. Robert Spencer was named the new parish priest. Authorities noted from the beginning of the investigation that McElwee was not a suspect in the crime, and that Spigarelli acted alone.

Amy Pavlacka, director of communications for the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, has previously said the diocese is working with the Sacred Heart staff to train personnel and implement financial controls — such as dual-signature checks and securing unused checks.

“We encourage all of our parishes to use all these financial controls,” she said this summer. “Our finance office is working with that parish to make sure they understand the appropriate controls they need to have in place.”


Investigators with the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the FBI launched an investigation into the church’s finances in July 2008. The investigation produced 111 separate counts of alleged fraud that were lumped into a single federal charge of mail fraud, authorities have said.



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Category: Church Security

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