“Our bookkeeper has been a member and served our church for many years. We trust him/her completely…”
Church’s Secretary accused of embezzling $1.5 million
Former pastor guilty of stealing from church
Church’s former secretary jailed on fraud charges
Priests get jail for stealing from church
Church secretary accused of stealing thousands
Woman accused of stealing from church
Baptist church secretary was arrested and charged with 17 counts of credit-card fraud…
Church financial secretary steals $216,000—asks for forgiveness
Church secretary admits to stealing $274,000 from congregation
These are all actual headlines from articles about church theft. I think we’d all agree…this is NOT the publicity that anyone wants, particularly a church. In most of the church embezzlement cases I have read about, the crime is not perpetrated by a thief who has sought out a soft target. More often churches are embezzled from by a long-time, dedicated and trusted employee who has been given total access to the church’s financial operations. In short, it is usually not bad people who steal from churches. Rather, church embezzlement is committed by good people who find themselves (or their close relatives) in bad situations.
Churches victimized in this way have often not taken into account the first leg of the “fraud triangle” – Pressure. (Rationalization and opportunity are the other two.) Pressure can be defined as any outside force or set of circumstances that creates a need for cash. Pressure comes in many forms, including large unexpected medical costs, business reversals, and in far too many cases, addictions. When faced with these issues, many people of otherwise unquestioned integrity are tempted to “borrow” from their employer to alleviate the pressure.
Churches have limited control over the pressures their employees and volunteers face. However, they have almost total control over one leg of the triangle – OPPORTUNITY. By establishing strong financial controls and processes churches can go a long way in removing temptation from its employees.
If you’d like to hear more about our Internal Control Assessments or one of the many other services we provide, please contact us at (817)664-3000 or email us using our contact form.