Mo. woman pleads guilty to embezzling church funds

It's becoming increasingly difficult for religious organizations to simply assume the trustworthiness of their employees. Yet another example of alleged fraud at a local church recently served as a reminder that the need for accounts payable audits is nearly universal.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Elaine Lewis pleaded guilty to defrauding the Sunset Hills, Mo.-based Lutheran Church of the Resurrection of approximately $300,000. The Fenton, Mo., woman allegedly funneled the money from the church's checking account into her family's locksmithing business over a four-year period from 2009 to 2013.

According to KSDK, Lewis faces up to 20 years in prison in addition to a fine of up to $250,000. The church expressed its dismay over Lewis' alleged actions and assured the public that it had taken steps to prevent any continued abuse of funds.

"It was with shock and sadness that we learned Aug. 8, 2013, of the discrepancies in our congregational finances. … We have implemented all necessary measures to ensure the security of our finances and the continued daily operations of our church," the church said in a statement, according to the news source.

Whether or not the organization implemented audit solutions, the case has surely made a permanent impact on its financial oversight strategy.

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