Audit: Potential church synod embezzlement may exceed $714,000

Earlier this year, allegations came to light regarding the embezzlement of more than $250,000 by the bookkeeper of a Moorhead, Minnesota-based church. However, a subsequent recovery audit revealed that the scope of the misappropriation may have been considerably larger – more than $714,000, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead reports.

Robert Duane Larson was employed by the Northwestern Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America between September 2004 and January of this year, when he was terminated from the position. He told police that some of the money was put toward a $150,000 house renovation, but authorities also suspect he used it to pay off house and car loans. According to the latest affidavit, it was also used for living expenses.

"He found a way to get the money out just as fast as it came in," said John Evert, coordinator of the nonprofit Rural Life Outreach program for which Larson also served as volunteer bookkeeper, as quoted by the news source.

Organizations that employ a single accountant make themselves vulnerable to embezzlement. Conducting regular accounts payable audits and establishing a system of checks and balances can help lower risk.

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